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Simmons College Welcomes Two Female Students from Afghanistan to Study for College Degree

BOSTON (September 9, 2004) — Simmons College has welcomed two young women from Afghanistan on full scholarship, for the opportunity to study for a college degree that was denied them under Taliban rule.

Simmons is the first college in Massachusetts to offer four-year scholarships to Afghan women through the Rhode-Island based Initiative To Educate Afghan Women (IEAW). The IEAW helps Afghan women resume their educations after years under strict Taliban rule, when Afghan women were forbidden an education and were punished for trying to learn.

The two women, chosen along with 12 others by the Initiative to begin college this year around the U.S. paid for by each college, begin their freshman year at Simmons in September. One of the women was secretly home schooled in Afghan during the Taliban rule, and then set up her own secret home school for other Afghan women. The other's family moved to Pakistan to allow her to pursue secondary schooling.

Also, as an unprecedented move for a college, Simmons is encouraging a "community read" about Afghan women and culture under the Taliban rule, by purchasing 2,000 copies of the book "Sewing Circles of Herat," as a gift to every faculty, staff, and student member of the undergraduate college. College officials say the community is being encouraged to read the book about life under Taliban rule to help everyone understand the culture of Afghanistan, and its challenges during and after the Taliban rule.

All the scholarship recipients will return to Afghanistan each summer and after graduation, to work in their country's reconstruction efforts and to help move other women forward.

"Our participation in the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women fits perfectly within the Simmons mission of educating women for power and leadership," said Simmons College President Daniel S. Cheever Jr. "The College is proud to partner with Roger Williams University to support women from Afghanistan who, I am sure, are destined to become leaders in their country."

The IEAW was founded by Paula Nirschel, wife of the president of Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. Nirschel started the program in 2002 after watching news reports about the burkha-shrouded women of Afghanistan, who had been forbidden to take classes during the Taliban rule. Other colleges around the nation also are joining the Initiative.

For further information on the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women, go to Simmons College is a nationally recognized, small, private, predominantly women's university in the heart of Boston. It has undergraduate programs for women and graduate programs for women and men.