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Sofia Ramyar (MDR ‘21) Promotes Youth-Led Efforts for Peace in Afghanistan

Sofia Ramyar (MDR '21), an international advocate for peace, began her dispute resolution degree at the Straus Institute this January. We interviewed Sofia to learn more about her inspiring work in Afghanistan and the journey that brought her to Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law.

Please share more with us about your work in peacemaking prior to commencing your MDR degree at the Straus Institute.

I run the largest youth-led organization in Afghanistan, Afghans for Progressive Thinking (APT), and our mission is to build a peaceful society by promoting critical thinking skills in children and youth, thereby empowering them to be a force of change in our country. We run an elementary school that provides educational opportunities to dozens of displaced children. In 2018, APT launched Afghan Youth Representative to the United Nation Program, where youth serve as ambassadors of peace on a global scale--one youth is sent to the UN to brief Security Council members on the state of youth in Afghanistan.

What did you love about your work with Afghans for Progressive Thinking? What were some of the challenges you encountered?

I feel fortunate to have a platform to help other Afghan youth realize their potential and be part of positive change and reform in Afghanistan. Through my work at APT, I was able to put a smile on the face of our school kids who have lost family members and a sense of community in the war.

It is never easy for young women to be leaders in traditionally male-dominated societies. Women often do not receive the respect and recognition they deserve for the work they do, and APT aimed to slowly shift these norms by educating and empowering young boys and girls.

What drew you to the Straus Institute and why did you choose to come?

Straus is an internationally-recognized institution, and I knew its rigorous academic program would equip me with the knowledge and skills to advance my long-term goals. The coursework in my Master's in Dispute Resolution (MDR) degree perfectly aligns with my career trajectory.

I chose to come to Straus to accelerate my understanding of international peacemaking, reflect on my work from the past decade, and consider ideas and collaborations that advance peace in my home country.

Thus far, how would you describe your experience at Straus?

My experience at Straus has been nothing short of amazing. From my first day onwards, I have felt welcomed and found a sense of community, on campus and now online. I have already developed a deep connection with the university, and have greatly enjoyed classes with my distinguished professors and classmates.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a career in peacemaking?

Every contribution, however big or small, makes a difference in the lives of thousands of people who are suffering from conflict and violence. For this reason, our world needs peacemakers at every level to bring understanding, deescalate conflicts in nonviolent ways, and promote safe and happy communities.