Palwasha L. Kakar is the senior program officer 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 degree focusing on gender, politics and religion from Harvard University’s Divinity School and a Bachelor's degree in Religion and Global Studies focusing on peace and conflict from Bethel College in North Newton, KS.

Publications By Palwasha

Libya’s Religious Sector and Peacebuilding Efforts

Libya’s Religious Sector and Peacebuilding Efforts

Thursday, March 16, 2017

By: Palwasha L. Kakar; Zahra Langhi

Derived from two surveys conducted in Libya in 2014 and 2016, this report strives to heighten understanding of the country’s religious sector and its impact on governance and society. The findings—which are bolstered by the local knowledge of Libyan researchers—map the major religious trends, institutions, and actors in the country to describe how Libyans perceive the contribution of the religious sector to building peace and fostering justice and democracy.

Religion; Democracy & Governance; Justice, Security & Rule of Law

To Reduce Extremism, Bridge the Government-Society Divide

To Reduce Extremism, Bridge the Government-Society Divide

Thursday, December 22, 2016

By: Palwasha L. Kakar; Melissa Nozell; Muhammad Fraser-Rahim

One after another, the women told their stories: the stigma, the repeated questioning by officials, the police anti-terrorism units following them. The women had become civic activists after losing their sons or husbands to the lure of violent extremism. They said they just wanted to make sure no one else suffered the same pain. But all the authorities could see was the relative of an extremist.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Violent Extremism; Religion

Protecting Women’s Rights in Afghanistan … And Making it Last

Protecting Women’s Rights in Afghanistan … And Making it Last

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

By: Palwasha L. Kakar; Melissa Nozell

Wazhma needed a lawyer. She could no longer stand the beatings her husband was inflicting in a marriage that she had not wanted in the first place.  As a third-year medical student, she knew she had rights and she wanted a divorce.  Hers was one of 11 cases that the Women Defense Lawyers’ Advisory Council took to court in Afghanistan over the course of a year.

Gender; Religion; Human Rights

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