Burnaby resident Lauryn Oates has been doing humanitarian work in Afghanistan since 2003, promoting international development, education and women's rights. Oates became interested in the cause after reading a newspaper article on the Taliban's treatment of women when she was just 14 years old.
The now 31-year-old human rights activist recently returned to Canada to receive an Alumni Leadership Award from Royal Roads University in Victoria. The NOW caught up with Oates to talk about her work, life in Afghanistan and the plight of women there.
Question: Tell me about the main projects you're working on in Afghanistan?
Answer: My time is divided in half: I'm the part-time projects director with Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan), a charity founded in 1996.
The rest of the time I consult with other aid and donor agencies like UNICEF, the Nike Foundation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, Global Rights and others. With CW4WAfghan, our focus is education. We run a teacher-
training program, having trained over 4,000 teachers to date, as well as literacy classes, schools, and a community library program.
We also work to equip as many schools as possible with science labs and libraries. Each school costs $2,500 to outfit.
Finally, a work in progress for me right now is the development of the first e-learning lab for teachers in Afghanistan, a project we call the Darakht-e Danesh ("Knowledge Tree") Library for Educators.