Cathy Raymond is the Assistant Director, English Language Programs in the Office for International Students and Scholars at Washington University, Saint Louis.
My ties to Afghanistan go back to 2005, when I first worked as ESL/TESOL Methodology Specialist on a Fulbright Educational Exchange between Kabul Education University and Indiana University. Since then my projects with Afghanistan have all involved education; some were closely connected to higher education reforms in that country, while others involved teacher training and materials development. Since 2011, I have been closely involved with the Alliance for International Women’s Rights (AIWR). This non-profit organization has a mission of supporting women leaders and future women leaders in developing countries (with current and future programs in Afghanistan and Nepal). At AIWR, we seek to create connections between women in developed countries worldwide who would like to use their skills to further women’s rights. The primary way in which we create these connections is through our long-distance Empowerment Programs: the English Language Program and the Professional Mentoring Program.
I currently work as English Language Program Director for AIWR. The purpose of our English Program is to increase the English capacity of Afghan women leaders and future women leaders. By improving their English, the women and girls can more easily reach out to the international community for educational opportunities, scholarships, advice, and funding, and they can also share their experiences with the rest of the world. Our English classes operate on a very personal level; they are long-distance, one-on-one lessons between an English teacher and a student.
The philosophy that drives our mission at AIWR is that everyone deserves respect and full access to fundamental human rights. Unfortunately, women in many parts of the world are at a disadvantage and often lack the skills and resources to reach their full potential. We seek to mitigate gender inequality by pairing female professionals from all over the world with girls and women who are searching for ways to advance their status and improve their chances for professional and personal success. Both sides profit immensely; while the girls and women in Afghanistan develop language and professional skills that enable them to find jobs, go to university, and obtain professional advice, their mentors and teachers from all around the world increase their own understanding of Afghan culture on a very personal level. As teachers and students in the English Program, we all have the unique opportunity to directly meet and learn about women from other cultures. These very close connections are rewarding and life-changing for both sides and improve international understanding, one person at a time.
I have been working with AIWR for several years and am proud to be a part of this extraordinary team of women.