Amina Davlatshoeva

Before joining the doctoral program at CIE Amina completed a master’s degree in Education at the Aga Khan University in Pakistan.  Her studies focused on planning and policy development for educational institutions and governments, with an emphasis on education systems in Asia.  Below she recounts here experiences since then.


When I finished my Master’s degree in Pakistan, I found work in Afghanistan. Starting in 2004 I worked with The Aga Khan Education Services in Afghanistan as an Education Program Coordinator for Tutorial Assistance Program which helped children needing assistance to improve their subject knowledge in three regions of Afghanistan. In 2005 I joined the “Learning for life” project, in Kabul as Technical Advisor to Bridging program in the instructional design department. The project was administered by CIE/UMass. ”Learning for life” was a health focused, accelerated adult literacy project that prepared women and older girls in rural areas of 12 provinces.


In 2006 I entered the doctoral program at CIE/UMass.  I finally finished my degree in 2014. My doctoral thesis “Female Voices on Health Issues in The Northeast Provinces of Afghanistan” was published by Lambert Academic Publishing. It can be found on Amazon here. My thesis research was multifaceted but the focus was; Health and Identity and how this manifests in the financial stability of a project. It was not until my doctorate was granted that I was able to focus on questions that perplexed me! To what degree were the questions fact or allowed opinions?


After Graduation from UMass, the inevitable question arose of “what’s next?”  I was able to join Qnet, an E-commerce company based in Malaysia, as an independent representative. I was assigned as a co-trainer for topics focused on helping start-up entrepreneurs integrate principles into their business models: E-money, E-transactions on the internet; E-commerce Myths and Realities; and How to detect fraudulent versus legitimate internet products. We worked with clients from Tajikistan (Tajikistan was multi-cultural then), Afghanistan and UAE and trained in a combination of Tajik, Dari, Russian English and Arabic.  


Early in 2015 I was a co-trainer in Badkhshan, Afghanistan working in an information session for Afghan women who were using e-commerce and learning conceptual models of business planning.  (Left with co-trainer in Wakhan Corridor at the border crossing to Takjikistan.)


Later in 2015 I joined the Infinity Holdings Group of Companies in Abu Dhabi as the Senior Group Manager of Strategic Planning, Development and Research. In that role I was charged with developing a road map for the company in Abu Dhabi and preparing them for EXPO 2021. I was also responsible for developing E-commerce and Smart Applications with businesses and semi-government entities in UAE. My work required many hours of reading and analyzing data generated within the UAE and from other Middle Eastern countries.  I conducted surveys and was able to help senior staffers use different tools to clarify their understanding of the ecosystems of finance and its relationship to the world of international business. (Right with co-worker at Infinity Holdings.)


As any UMass Graduate can attest the corporate world is a giant leap from health education working with people in the rural areas of Asia. I found my studies from UMass gave me advantages that others in the corporate world did not possess: business models and numbers, figures, currencies - my analytical skills and qualitative style of drawing meaning from complex data was an asset. My signature line to my team was “The data shows otherwise.” 


When Covid19 arrived in 2020, the Abu Dhabi UAE corporate world practically came to a standstill. Officially or unofficially, people simply stopped coming to work. Corporate communications came to a standstill. Many of my team relied on TV and social media for information. At a time when folks most needed reassurance there was none. So that began my involvement in social media through more than 20 YouTube videos “Breaking the Curve of Covid19.”


My contribution was to share knowledge as awareness. I explored different aspects of life during Covid19 that were specific to the Central Asia, Middle Eastern context. I published video content in different languages including English, Tajik, and Shugni. The feedback I received prompted more research. That was when I understood the obligation to remind my followers (especially those who recently emerged from the rural world) that there was, is, and always would be, an obligation to differentiate between opinion and fact.


Because I was passionate about narratives and stories of people, I chose to focus on social projects with an entrepreneurial thrust. As part of that interest, In 2019 I was invited to make a presentation to the Dubai Rotary Club titled "Voices of Development: One step forward two steps back"



Initially, I am not sure that recognized that I was beginning to “wear several hats.”  Of course I understood from childhood the price of indiscriminate speech and that failure to recognize that price can cost one’s livelihood or life. What I failed to understand in those early days of social media, was that not much had really changed; that no matter how pure my intentions, those who did not like my content could use my work to destroy my livelihood. I brought statistics and research into virtual discussions with multinational companions. For example, to identify the ethnocentrism of oral culture, prevalent in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and The Middle East. The resistance to evidence-based, strategic trials ought not to have surprised me. Perhaps I failed to recognize that many fear the educated and those who painstakingly fight to gain the best knowledge possible.   


The bulk of my work took place in traditionally male-dominated societies. That humans can find change challenging is not confined to any one region.  What makes my world difficult is that for centuries women have known their place in a male-dominated society.  New ideas are challenged not just by the men but by women who see structures changing - they gain insights into a new world without the skills to participate. Unless the process of implementing change allows sufficient time, then anxiety and fear of loss often manifests as a threat. Threats that need to be taken seriously in the world where law is both semi-civil and religious. 


The internet and the social media platforms that I learned to use during lockdown were appreciated by those who lived in fear of Covid19.  What made social media far more dangerous for me was my content, which in the West might be judged as ‘This writer has just discovered sliced bread.’  However if one is NOT in that world, those who do have power over one’s life and freedom can take any comment by a social media presenter out of context.  My ‘fall from grace’ was at least in part because I encouraged thinking, encouraged the use of logic and reason. As my readership increased, so did the threats.    (Left picture from one of her videos. Click Here to see videos)


The resistance can be formidable. Resistance to change is not limited to the third world.  The video content includes scenarios of dialogue that show how to switch to exploring in a more qualitative way, trying to understand the phenomena better or what the data says.  For me, in the corporate world, or e-commerce or financial literacy training, each experience brings up a mix arguments about religion, politics, the male-female power game, Western Non-Western hegemony, on-the-street harassment, cyber bullying, internet ghosting, belittling the world of academic discourse, or being dismissed by self-bloggers as “Oh just another academic type of video content.”


The gift from my time at CIE was not only the skill of qualitative analysis but a realization that I somehow carry not only the knowledge or the skills of inquiry but also how best to validate that knowledge.  Somehow one becomes – the Ambassador or Watch Dog to advocate for “let’s understand the phenomena deeper, can we look at the facts, rather than emotional views or anecdotes, can we not make early conclusions about project initiatives, or the corporate world when one wishes to bring new product to the market.”


In 2021 I was happy to join the USAID-financed AFIAT project - Health and Literacy Program, in Kabul, Afghanistan as a Technical Consultant in Instructional Design, Health Literacy, and Accelerated Learning. I loved being back associated with CIE/UMass, and was delighted to provide an updated understanding of CIE’s earlier work in the LFL project. But then, the sudden end to the project due to the resistance to educate girls in Afghanistan with the return of the Taliban makes my heart sad. 


Finally in the spring of 2023 I am back in contact with CIE and staying in Amherst for a while as I reflect on what will come next in my life. [6-23]




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