Afghani Social Activist to Speak at Schemel Forum’s Luncheon Seminar Series

Nov 11, 2010

        Area residents who attend the next offering of the Luncheon Seminar Series: World Affairs Briefings at The University of Scranton will savor a hearty helping of food for thought. Offered by the Schemel Forum at the University, the seminar will be presented by Suraya Pakzad, founder and executive director of the Voice of Women Organization, on Tuesday, Nov. 16, from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the McIlhenny Ballroom of the DeNaples Center.

        A leader on the forefront of social change in Afghanistan, Pakzad will address the topic “Afghanistan on the Ground: A Woman’s View.”

        In a country where females are second-class citizens, Pakzad overcame formidable obstacles to receive an education and more recently, under the oppressive Taliban rule, risked her life to set up covert schools for girls and spread the light of knowledge to the future mothers of her country. Her presentation will focus on the most recent developments in Afghanistan regarding empowering women with basic rights. She will also emphasize, in the wake of the exit of international forces and aid agencies, the need for the United States and its allies to “see us through the transition and not repeat the mistakes of leaving us in the middle of nowhere.”

        In 1998, Pakzad, who learned to speak English by watching CNN, and other Afghan professionals established the Voice of Women Organization (VWO) — the first non-governmental organization to be formally registered in the post-Taliban era. By carrying out several critical relief and rehabilitation programs for vulnerable women and children in Afghanistan, the organization attracted the attention of international donor agencies. Today, the VWO advocates for a variety of women’s rights and provides a wide range of services in the areas of education, job training and health.

        For her invaluable human rights efforts and achievement, Pakzad received a Women of Courage award in 2008 from the U.S. State Department and the National Medal (Malali Medal) from the President of Afghanistan. She also was recognized by Time Magazine as one of “The World’s Most Influential People” in 2009.

        According to Sondra Myers, director of the Schemel Forum at The University of Scranton, the luncheon series program is an important resource for the local community. “People need an analysis of what is happening in the world,” said Myers. “We bring this to the community through the luncheon speakers, who all are nationally and internationally respected experts in their fields.”

        In addition, Myers points out that the series is a convenient lunchtime option since the University of Scranton campus is close to downtown. “Afghanistan on the Ground: A Woman’s View” is the last of World Affairs Briefings in the fall semester, but the Luncheon Seminar Series will continue in the spring semester.

        Participants can register to attend the luncheon for $20 per person or $30 per couple. To register, contact Kym Fetsko, events coordinator, at (570) 941-7816 or For more information about University for a Day and Schemel Forum memberships, contact Sondra Myers at (570) 941-4089 or


The Schemel Forum is a program of participatory learning experiences aimed at cultivating the intellect and the imagination through study and discussion of classical texts and current policies, from the arts, history and philosophy to technology and theology. Founded in 2006 through generous gifts to the Rev. George Schemel, S.J., Fund, the forum has grown quickly from a handful of informal lectures to a comprehensive enrichment program of study, dialogue, performances and special events. Session fees vary by program. 

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