Palwasha L. Kakar is the interim director for religion and inclusive societies at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP). Kakar joined USIP after four years with The Asia Foundation where she was the Afghanistan director for Women’s Empowerment and Development. Prior to joining the Foundation, Kakar led the Gender Mainstreaming and Civil Society Unit in the United Nation Development Program's Afghanistan Subnational Governance Program managing a small grants program for Afghanistan's civil society initiatives. Kakar also served as program manager for The Gender Studies Institute at Kabul University. She has experience working with the World Bank Group on gender, social justice and environmental issues surrounding their various projects in the region.

Kakar moved to Afghanistan 2004 to work with the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU), an independent research organization, on women's participation at the local levels in the National Solidarity Programme (NSP). Before moving to Afghanistan, she was the director of the Newton Peace Center (currently Peace Connections) a faith-based civil society organization.

An Afghan-American, she has experience teaching and researching religion, gender, security and local governance. Kakar has published research regarding women’s participation in local governance, Pashtunwali-Afghan customary law, Afghan women's identity, and social spaces in Afghanistan. Her research has taken her to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Syria.

She earned a master's focusing on gender, politics and religion from Harvard University’s Divinity School and a bachelor's in religion and global studies focusing on peace and conflict from Bethel College in North Newton, KS.

Publications By Palwasha

Iran’s Protests ... and the Afghan Sisters Next Door

Iran’s Protests ... and the Afghan Sisters Next Door

Thursday, October 13, 2022

By: Belquis Ahmadi;  Palwasha L. Kakar

Iran’s women are seizing worldwide admiration with 26 days of courageous defiance against their authoritarian government’s violent confinement of females as second-class citizens who may not freely work, marry, divorce, travel or even be seen with their heads uncovered. Less noted are this audacious movement’s existing, and potential, connections to the tenacious, 14-month campaign by Afghan women resisting the even tighter oppression of the Taliban. Street protest slogans, social media posts and other links illustrate a synergy between the movements that both should use in the difficult task of converting their inspiring courage into real change.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

GenderNonviolent Action

On Climate: To Save the Human Planet, Ally with Human Faith

On Climate: To Save the Human Planet, Ally with Human Faith

Thursday, March 24, 2022

By: Tegan Blaine, Ph.D.;  Chris Collins;  Mona Hein;  Palwasha L. Kakar

Humanity’s preservation of a habitable planet now requires policymakers, environmentalists and others to rally billions of people in resisting climate change through a painful remaking of our very economies and societies. Our struggle to build this unprecedented global commitment — notably against headwinds of pandemics, poverty and wars — urgently requires that we build partnership and synergy with a powerful group of allies: religious communities.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

EconomicsEnvironmentReligion

Four Lessons From Desmond Tutu’s Life and Legacy

Four Lessons From Desmond Tutu’s Life and Legacy

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

By: Palwasha L. Kakar;  Melissa Nozell;  Knox Thames

On December 26, the world lost a “moral compass,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, aged 90. Grounded in his Christian faith, his legacy as a peacebuilder through his anti-Apartheid activism and promotion of peace and justice is unparalleled. Tutu’s great influence on the field of peacebuilding, and his mark on peace and reconciliation efforts have rippled worldwide. Here are four attributes that Archbishop Tutu exemplified as a religious peacebuilder, radically inspiring people across the globe to fight injustice and advocate for peace. 

Type: Blog

Religion

Coronavirus in Afghanistan: An Opportunity to Build Trust with the Taliban?

Coronavirus in Afghanistan: An Opportunity to Build Trust with the Taliban?

Thursday, April 16, 2020

By: Belquis Ahmadi;  Palwasha L. Kakar

The COVID-19 crisis comes at a critical juncture for Afghanistan. The disputed 2019 presidential election has led to a stalemate between incumbent President Ghani and the chief executive of the last government, Abdullah Abdullah, both of whom claim the right to govern. At a time when the Afghan government should be focused on the best chance to bring peace in years, it’s distracted by a political crisis. Meanwhile, progress in the peace process has slowed since the U.S. and Taliban signed a deal in late February.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global HealthPeace Processes

To Help End a War, Call Libya’s Women Negotiators

To Help End a War, Call Libya’s Women Negotiators

Thursday, October 17, 2019

By: Palwasha L. Kakar

As Libya struggles to end an armed conflict that has only widened this year, it should turn to a hidden resource: the traditional peacemaking roles of its women. As in many countries facing warfare, women have long played a key role in negotiating or mediating conflicts within families, clans and local communities—but are overlooked by official institutions and peace processes. Amid Libya’s crisis, one such “hidden” peacemaker is Aisha al-Bakoush, a hospital nursing director who has expanded her healing mission from medical illnesses to armed conflict.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

GenderPeace ProcessesReligion

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