Naheed Vadsaria, DMSB’02, served with American and French coalition forces during the war in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011, developing relations with Afghan villagers, particularly women, so that military leaders could better understand the culture.
Vadsaria visited villages throughout the Kapisa Province as part of the military’s Human Terrain Systems program. As a Muslim woman educated in the West, she was better able to form relationships with villagers and learn intricacies of the Afghan culture, enabling her to educate military coalition leaders on what she learned.
The goal of this “hearts and minds” strategy was to create allies among the Afghan people. Vadsaria also ensured that the military provided assistance to the local population that would create a real impact, such as educating teachers and listening to raised issues in the war zone.
“The overall goal is to humanize everybody,” she says. “Humanize the Afghans to the military, but also humanize the military to the Afghans.”
Vadsaria was born in Pakistan and moved to the U.S. with her parents when she was four-years-old. As a business major and work-study at Northeastern University, she worked in what is now known as the Office of Global Services, where she developed a passion for international affairs. After graduation, she joined the Peace Corps in Gambia for two years and then earned a master’s degree in international policy at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in California.
Although her work in the military was a challenge at times, Vadsaria persevered because of her passion for her job.
“No matter where women work, live, or travel in this world, there are always hurdles for women,” said Vadsaria. “It was sometimes a hard environment to live in, but when you love your job, you overcome any adversity to ensure the mission is completed.”