AU students work with women’s group Task Force Nyx to highlight voices of Afghan women

Participants created panel, other events to amplify and support activists’ voices

 AU students work with women’s group Task Force Nyx to highlight voices of Afghan women

Before starting her senior capstone project, American University student Ariel Tresser never expected to gain work experience from a college class. Now, the student in the School of Communication has been working with five other classmates since January to support the mission of women’s rights organization Task Force Nyx, an opportunity she didn’t think she would get while still in college. 

“I really like working one-on-one with clients, and I really do want the work that I’m doing here to translate into my post-grad work, so I think it’s a really great experience,” Tresser said.

She began this project in her capstone class, a required three-credit course designed to give students the chance to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they have gained in their time at American University, according to the AU Core website. Students in the PR capstone project were offered three different clients to work with. Tresser said she was immediately attracted to Task Force Nyx’s mission and all-women team. 

“I thought it'd be really cool if I could make an impact not only on that organization, but the women and girls that they help, too,” Tresser said.

Task Force Nyx is a women-led, all-volunteer nongovernmental organization that advocates for the rights of Afghan women and girls whose freedoms have been restricted by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan since August 2021. 

To support Task Force Nyx’s work, Tresser and her teammates have created several events to help raise awareness and increase the organization’s donor base. One of their main events is a virtual panel that was held on March 8, which was also International Women’s Day, featuring several female Afghan activists. 

The featured speakers were Hoda Khamosh, Zahra Haqparast, Hakimeh Zairfi and Homura Rezai, who will also serve as the moderator. There was also a fourth panelist whose name is being withheld for safety concerns. The panelists discussed their experiences as advocates for Afghan women and girls and their personal journey of overcoming injustice. 

“One of the things that we’ve always been looking to do at Task Force Nyx is amplify the voices of Afghan women, particularly those who have a lived experience in Afghanistan from August 2021 forwards,” said Task Force Nyx Co-founder and Chief of Strategy Laura Deitz. “We wanted to ensure that this newer generation of up-and-coming human rights voices and leaders were respected and given a platform to share both their own life story and history, but also their work and their current perspective on what the international community should do to support Afghan women and girls today.” 

Additional activities that Tresser’s team have planned for their project are a lacrosse game against Lafayette College where the AU athletes will wear turquoise ribbons in their hair or uniform to show support, an April 7 movie screening about a woman’s life in Kabul before the Taliban invasion, and a trivia night at Solly’s Tavern on March 22. All the proceeds gathered at these events will be donated to Task Force Nyx.

These efforts come as women and girls in Afghanistan are faced with increasing human rights violations. Afghan women are currently banned from traveling long-distance without a male chaperone, girls cannot attend school past the sixth grade and women are barred from working most jobs outside the home, according to UN Women

Deitz said the panel is intended to motivate audiences to action and educate them on ways to support Task Force Nyx’s mission. 

“Sometimes situations that are so far around the world seem quite distant and removed from our own day-to-day, and also the scale and the enormity of the human rights crisis in Afghanistan … can seem so overwhelming that people think ‘What can I do?’” said Deitz.

Deitz added that some key action steps are listening to the stories of Afghan women like the panelists and joining the effort of organizations supporting women’s rights like Task Force Nyx. 

“Anyone anywhere in the world can really get involved and do something irrespective of their background and network and access,” Deitz said. 

Tresser said that working with Task Force Nyx has made her feel like she’s making a real difference, an experience that she hopes to bring into her professional career. 

“This is like real-life work that you would be doing at a public relations agency, so it’s very cool that the professors at AU give us this responsibility and have trust in their students to do all this,” Tresser said.

This article was edited by Jordan Young and Nina Heller. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis, Leta Lattin, Luna Jinks, Sarah Clayton and Stella Guzik.

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