International Partnerships

The story of Zahra, an Afghan student in Kazakhstan

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Zahra has been in Kazakhstan for 1 month. During this time, she hasn’t heard the sound of explosion and explains how this makes her feel.

She was 4 years old when the Taliban came to Afghanistan and her family and her had to flee to Pakistan. Afghan people did not want this war to take place. It prevented them from living a comfortable and peaceful life. There are several terrorist groups active in Afghanistan. Her family has suffered from terrorist attacks she says, and speaks of her brother who was a doctor in a military hospital and got killed.

Zahra, an Afghan student in Kazakhstan

Her family then realised that Afghanistan had become too insecure to live in. When they moved to Pakistan, Zahra found a job in a carpet factory. She worked 12 hours a day to support her family financially. She was only 5 years old.

We’ve been here in Kazakhstan for 1 month. In this time, we didn’t hear any sound of explosion, which was a pleasure for us.

3 years later Zahra and her family returned to Afghanistan. Her parents were illiterate, but they did their best to support Zahra in getting an education.

Zahra came to Kazakhstan to study English and get a master’s degree in statistics. She heard about this programme from social networks: ”And now I’m here, and preparing for my master’s programme” she says.

“There are several reasons why I chose Kazakhstan. First it is one of the Asian countries that has a better level of higher education. Also, it is very safe here, unlike my country”, says Zahra. “The system of education here is different from Afghanistan. The resources they use for studying and education are modern and new. It motivates me to study more. Of course, there are many differences in the culture, social life and law system but there are certain similarities as well.“ she explains.

Zahra in the university library
Zahra in the university library - Copyright: UNDP

Zahra adds: ”In Kazakhstan, women and children don’t have concerns about their future and education. In Afghanistan, women must prove to their family and society that they are able to study, and this takes a lot of time. The most important people in my life are my family, especially my mother. She is the person who takes risks and accepts different challenges to help us both financially and mentally.

I will return to Afghanistan. We need to get educated on an international level. If we all leave Afghanistan, there will be no one left who could deal with all the misery in the country. I love my homeland and I will never leave it.”

About the project

The EU is funding this UNDP project supporting young women from Afghanistan to attend Central Asian universities and help break disproportionate barriers to education and employment back home. ‘Supporting the economic empowerment of Afghan women through education and training in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan’ is a 6 year programme which started in 2019. By May 2025, 50 Afghan women will have been awarded scholarship to pursue degree studies in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.