Parwana, Afghan parolee and mother of two, is no stranger to overcoming adversity. When her family fled to the U.S. after the Taliban took control of Kabul, she was prepared to face many challenges as they built a new life for themselves in Maryland.
My only goal was for my kids to go to school, my husband to get a job, and I hoped one day I would learn English - Parwana
Because Parwana worked as a Dari and Pashto teacher in Afghanistan, she knew the importance of language literacy in establishing her life in the U.S. When she was first resettled, her basic English language skills caused her challenges in taking public transit and difficulties with digital literacy made platforms like Zoom difficult to use when taking classes or interviewing for jobs. In addition, while Parwana relied on extended family to assist with childcare back in Afghanistan, she now had to find alternative, and often costly, options for day care services. Many women like Parwana find themselves facing similar barriers that differ from those of their male counterparts while being resettled in the same contexts.
To address the barriers that women face during the resettlement process, the IRC in Silver Spring developed a Gender Equity Committee which meets monthly to evaluate equity in services provided to refugees, determine what barriers women in IRC services are facing and develop new tools to address these challenges. In response to challenges like those of Parwana, the Gender Equity Committee developed resources related to digital literacy, public transportation trainings and visual one-pagers for clients. In order to continue to build on these resources, the Gender Equity Committee also created a gender equity intern position at the IRC in Silver Spring to provide direct service support in addressing barriers.
Parwana’s employment specialist used these tools to assist Parwana until she felt comfortable joining her English classes virtually and taking the bus. He discussed childcare options with her and referred her to the gender equity intern, who worked with the family until they were approved for vouchers to register with a local childcare facility. Now, after only a year in the U.S., Parwana speaks English proficiently, takes turns with her husband dropping their children off at daycare, and recently graduated from a culinary training and apprenticeship program through community partner, Emma’s Torch.
This Women’s History Month, Parwana’s goals in the U.S. have shifted:
When I first came, I thought I was alone, I cannot do some things, and my English is not good, but now everything has changed fast because of the IRC. I know I can do more. Now I want to keep improving my English, to start my own restaurant and to receive my green card. - Parwana
Today, Parwana is applying for restaurant jobs with her employment specialist, enrolling in financial coaching through the IRC, and confident that she will achieve her new goals in the U.S.