Podcast | Supporting girls’ education in Afghanistan

As the Taliban tightens restrictions, Marnie Gustavson’s nonprofit finds workarounds. Reporter Hal Bernton shares the WA native’s history of advocacy.

women in home school in Afghanistan

In 2023, PARSA has organized more than 170 Sister 4 Sisters home schools that serve more than 2,000 students, including girls of secondary-school age. (Courtesy of PARSA)

Journalist Hal Bernton took his first trip to Afghanistan back in 2009, to cover the war for The Seattle Times. There he met a Washington woman, Marnie Gustavson, and learned about PARSA, the Kabul-based nonprofit aid organization she has now led for 16 years. Through PARSA, Gustavson, who spent part of her childhood in Kabul, has helped run schools, improve orphanages and train teachers and social workers.

Bernton returned to Afghanistan in 2012 and continued to cover both the war and PARSA’s efforts over the years, as well as one of the issues that has amounted to a new, urgent crisis in the country: the draconian effect that Taliban control has had on women and girls.  

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Now, even as the Taliban regime’s severe restrictions have sought to remove girls and women from public schools and public life, Gustavson has continued PARSA’s work, helping launch new efforts to run classrooms out of people’s homes.

For this episode of Crosscut Reports, host Sara Bernard also talks with Bernton about his own experience reporting in Afghanistan, and why now is not the time — for him, anyway — to forget these stories or America’s promises to the Afghan people.

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