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Connecther News
Fall 2014


Event Corner

Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Dr. Sakena Yacoobi Keynotes Connecther Luncheon

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Connecther’s fall luncheon was held October 24 at the beautiful home of hostess Gretchen Canter. The event featured Hollywood producer Elizabeth Avellan and special guest Dr. Sakena Yacoobi. Attendees sipped chai and ate samosas out on the deck while enjoying breathtaking views of Lake Austin. Then a delicious lunch of Middle Eastern food was served.

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Luncheon Photo Credits: Omar Akhtar

Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr. Yacoobi has been quietly transforming her native Afghanistan one girl at a time. Since her work began in 1995, she has reached 11 million Afghans by opening schools and health clinics and offering trainings in such subjects as literacy, ethics, and democracy. In the process, her organization, the Afghan Institute of Learning, based in Kabul and Herat, has become one of the largest employers of Afghan women.

We asked Yacoobi, how did one person achieve something so big? “I started small, by opening one school,” she says. “Within a year, I had 27 schools teaching 50,000 children. When you have a passion for something, you keep going.” Although she has faced many dangers and setbacks along the way, Yacoobi brought a message of hope.


“What I want to tell you is this,” she told Connecther supporters. “The women of Afghanistan are no longer scared. This one wants to be president; that one wants to be a doctor. They will never go back to the way things were. And they will educate their children.”


From left to right: Connecther board members Dr. Zarmeena Vendal & Salwa Khan, Dr. Sakena Yacoobi and Amanda Quraishi

Connecther presented Yacoobi with a check for $10,000 to support her important work. The money will provide for the education of 35 Afghan schoolgirls. She thanked the attendees for their support. ”I don’t get government funding,” she says. “I don’t have people to help me raise money. I completely depend on groups like Connecther to keep going.”

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The Lovely Elizabeth Avellan

Attendees also heard the inspiring story of Elizabeth Avellan’s rise to become a Hollywood producer. Avellan noticed at a young age that she had an instinct for predicting what TV shows would succeed. She used that talent to leverage her successful career in the male-dominated field. Together with filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, she made El Mariachi, From Dusk Till Dawn, and the popular Spy Kids films. Avellan has helped along the careers of countless women, and she praised Connecther’s Girls Impact the World Film Festival for giving young filmmakers a voice. 

“Encourage your daughters to make short films,” she told the attendees. “I want to see more women become not just actresses, but producers and directors.”

From Herat to Hollywood, Connecther is creating more inspiring stories by advancing the lives of women and girls. Thanks to our wonderful supporters and to everyone who helped make the fall luncheon such a success.

We count on your support to continue our work to help advance women and girls globally.  Please support us by donating to our Connecther General Fund!

Can Films Change the World?

Connecther Forum at the Paley Center for Media Explores the Power of Film to Advance Women

In September a Connecther event brought together prominent social activists, media figures, and young filmmakers to discuss the power of storytelling through film as a vehicle for social change.


The inaugural "Creating Impact Through the Girls Impact the World Film Festival” was held at the Paley Center for Media in New York on September 20, 2014. Presenters included actress and philanthropist Eloise DeJoria; Saudi media personality Muna Abusulaman; founder of Women for Women International Zainab Salbi; general secretary of the World YWCA Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda and student filmmaker Sarah Khan.


Girls Impact the World Film Festival Presenting Sponsor, Eloise DeJoria

The forum featured screenings of five short films from the Girls Impact the World Film Festival. The films focus on a variety of global issues including child marriage, body image, and violence against women and girls.

  • In Point B, by Kathryn Harhai, the narrator reassures her younger self, who is struggling in silence with domestic abuse, that she will grow up to be strong and that it is strong to speak up.

  • In Variegated, by Annalise Lamberty, young women of color speak about how white beauty standards in the media affected their self-image and how we need to redefine beauty.

  • The Spring Storm, by Polen Ly, puts a human face on the issue of sex slavery with a haunting black and white documentary about a girl who was sold into sex trade by her family.

Paley Center Event Takeaway from Guest Speaker Zainab Salbi: What is the Secret Sauce that Creates Change?


Presenter Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International, told the New York audience that for 20 years she has asked herself, “What is that ‘secret sauce’ that creates change? What is the one thing we can do that will make the lives of women and girls better? Was it microcredit, or education, or a vocational program?” Then one day a colleague took her hand and said, “Zainab, one of the most important things we do is inspiring women, to show them the possibilities of change.” It was one of those A-ha moments when she realized,

“So change simply starts with inspiration. And inspiration always starts with a story.” That, she told the audience, is what the Girls Impact the World Film Festival is all about—young filmmakers telling powerful stories that influence others.

View Complete Paley Video Here!
Want to help fund Connecther's Girls Impact the World Film Festival?  You can do so here!

Project Corner

Shopping Projects is FUN, but don't take our word for it, try it out for yourself by browsing Connecther Projects and donating to the featured projects below!  These projects need your support, please give generously!

1. The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) is offering support to a girls' orphanage which houses 200 young girls and they need your help!  In 2010, AIL began offering medical services to the girls at the orphanages, and after a government ministry saw the quality of care that AIL was offering to the girls, they asked them to begin offering educational programming as well, which we have been doing since 2011.  With your help, we can offer support to the girls at the orphanage for six months!


The Citizen's Foundation (TCF) is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and the winner of the 2013 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship.  TCF schools are open to all children regardless of ethnicity or the family's ability to pay.  Students are of all faiths and encouraged to be open-minded, peace-loving and socially responsible members of society.  Schools follow nationally accredited, K-12 modern, prescribed syllabuses.  For only $120, you can educate-a-child for a year and change their future forever! 

Educate a Child TCF

All donations to Educate-a-Child Program will be matched up to $2500!

As a young girl growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan, Benafsha Tasmim loved school. “I would put on my school uniform at night so I wouldn't be late for school,” she says. “Everyone would laugh at me.” But her school days were cut short when the Taliban came to power and shut down girls’ schools.

Staying home each day was a hard adjustment for the enthusiastic nine-year-old. “You couldn't go out, or laugh, or talk out loud,” she recalls.

That could have been Benafsha’s fate, like that of so many Afghan girls. But instead, her parents supported her dream of going to school. First they sent her to a school held secretly in her teacher’s home. When that became too dangerous, they moved the family to Pakistan so she could continue.

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Benafsha at a Fashion Show Wearing a Beautiful Afghan Dress

Today the vibrant 24-year-old is training to become a future leader in her country. She is working on her master’s degree at the School for International Training in Bratteleboro, Vermont thanks to the support of Connecther and the Camps to Campus program which helps bring promising young people from conflict zones to pursue higher education opportunities. She is also working as an educational and cultural adviser to Skatesian, a Kabul based organization that teaches Afghan youth, including girls, to skateboard—and gives them an education in the process. Upon completing her degree, she plans to return to Afghanistan to continue working with Skatesian. Eventually, she plans to establish her own organization to advocate for girls' education in Afghanistan!

Your donations to Connecther create more inspiring stories like hers... All Donation to Camps to Campus matched up to $2500!

4.  Sughar, Women with Wings

Sughar provides socio-economic empowerment to tribal women in Pakistan by establishing Women Learning and Skill Development Centers in selected rural communities where each Center gives a 6 month course to tribal/rural women on creating and selling their traditional embroidery along with enterprise development.  Sughar also provides basic education and literacy skills to raise awareness of rural women which builds their capacities towards decision making and contribution in their households and lives.

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Can't decide on a project to fund?  Please give to the Connecther General Fund so we can continue our important work!

What Makes Us Happy?

’Tis the season to be jolly, but how many of us know what really makes us happy? Exercise and chocolate boost endorphins, but new research points to an even more enduring source: giving.

In the new book Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Morton report on recent research that finds shows that, although we like spending money on ourselves, giving to others makes us even happier.

Dunn and her colleagues gave study participants $5 or $20 dollars bills and asked them to spend the money on themselves or on other people. That evening, the participants who spent their bills on someone else reported a significant mood boost. Other studies show that even young children feel happy when given the opportunity to give away something of theirs. We seem to be hardwired to find giving to others rewarding.

One great way to enjoy that happiness dividend this holiday season is to make a donation to Connecther. You’ll feel good knowing that you are helping to empower women to advance their lives and communities. Then sit back and reap the benefits of your happiness harvest.

Connecther Gem of the Month

Connecther "Gems" (Women Who Give & Stand UP Men) - a fantastic group of women and men who are committed to supporting Connecther's initiatives & growth by giving multi-year contributions.  Click here to see if there is a Gem level that works for you!  This month's featured Gem is Sharon D'Agostino.

Sharon D'Agostino

You Funded It!

Scholarship 4_FotorYou, the Connecther donors, were able to fund 35 scholarships in record time! Thank you so much!

The school year began in April in Afghanistan, and your support helped to send 35 girls to high-quality private schools in Herat and Kabul, Afghanistan.

At one school in Herat, 22 scholarships were awarded to girls aged 7 to13. These girls are in first through seventh grade this school year. Some of their fathers are day laborers, others are bakers or drivers. At another school in Herat, Connecther donors provided scholarships to two preschool students and a 9-year-old girl who will be attending the third grade.

The final 10 scholarships you funded went to girls attending two private schools in Kabul. These girls are between 6 and 13 years old, and will be attending preschool to fifth grade this year.

In all cases, the girl’s families are not able to provide the tuition, books, supplies and uniforms necessary for the girls to attend these schools. For some, these private schools are their only chance to attend school, as the government-run schools are simply too far away to be traveled to safely.

“My father is a laborer and my mother does washing and cleaning for our neighbors,” says Fabia, age 13, one scholarship recipient. “I was not able to pay to go to school. I am so thankful for this scholarship. This opportunity has changed my life. After I graduate, I am going to help my family and my community."  

Your donations are helping to change lives!  Donate to a project which is helping more Afghan girls here!

A Success Story!

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But can a five-minute film really change the world? 

Young Pakistani filmmaker Sarah Khan told the New York audience about the impact her film Harvesting Hope, last year’s 2nd place winner of the Green IS Award at the Girls Impact the World Film Festival.  

In August she was invited to screen her film and talk about the issue of pesticide exposure at one of the most important conferences in Southeast Asia: the Asian Development Bank’s Judicial Roundtable on Environmental Justice. “My film struck exactly the right chord.…The chief justice of Egypt told me that he’d like to learn more about the organic farming because even in Egypt women do most of the cotton picking—which is incredible, because it meant that the impact had spread beyond just Pakistan. One of the senior ministers said he was so moved he had tears in his eyes. He said he would like to take up a petition in Pakistan’s high court and find a legal solution to the problem.”

Again, Khan attributes the success of her film to storytelling. 
“I didn’t give them statistics on how miscarriages may be linked to pesticide exposure; I showed them the story of Samina. I didn’t show them a pie chart on how pesticide exposure may be linked to respiratory problems or skin illnesses; I just showed them the stories of Kalsoom and Chanda.”

Ian Somerhalder Foundation Sponsors Annual "Green IS" Award!
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The Ian Somerhalder (IS) Foundation & Connecther have partnered to present the annual GITW / Green IS Award!

STUDENTS submit your 3–5 minute film on environmental issues that either:
1) propose solutions to environmental issues that impact women and girls OR
2) create awareness about environmental issues that impact women and girls.  LEARN MORE HERE!

Please support Connecther here. We can not do this work without your support! 

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As always, we would like to thank YOU for your continued support for the work we are doing to advance women and girls around the world.  Special thanks to our fantastic board of directors and all of our volunteers. IMG_8179

Special thanks to our fabulous Communications Specialist Elaine Robbins for making it possible for us to share these these stories with you!

GITWFF 2015Check Out Connecther's NEW Youtube Channel! All original content! 

We are on the Huffington Post!  Check us out here.

Enter Your Film and Win Great Prizes!!!

Girls Impact the World, a Film Festival co-produced by and the Harvard College Social Innovation Collaborative, is currently accepting student film submissions.  DEADLINE to enter is December 31, 2014. More details available at: Girls Impact the World


Want to help fund Connecther's Girls Impact the World Film Festival?  You can do so here!

Connecther & Paley Classroom Series Partnership

PaleyCenterLockuporange 2Our Girls Impact the World Films are being used to spark discussions at the Paley Center for Media!  Learn more here.

Don't forget to connect to Connecther!




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