The annual Champion for Education in Afghanistan Award recognizes individuals, including CW4WAfghan members, as well as projects, programs and organizations that have given outstanding service to the cause of supporting education for girls or women in Afghanistan. Through a nomination process, the Champion Award helps to identify and celebrate the many ‘unsung heroes’ who have demonstrated a personal commitment to the human right to education, whether through conceiving innovative education programs; leading or implementing programs like schools, literacy classes or professional development training; fundraising; volunteering; or advocacy. These inspiring role models help to spotlight the challenges and opportunities for women and girls pursuing education against great odds. The Champions for Education are announced annually in October during our annual symposium in Canada. 

Want to nominate a Champion for Education? Click here to access the nomination form.


  • 5 Afghan schools for girls
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Calgary Girls School


  • Every girl in Afghanistan whose ever wanted an education


  • Aziz Royesh, Kabul, AF
  • Pat Cashion, Calgary, AB


  • Jill Leslie, Victoria, BC


  • Madeliene Tarasick, Kingston, ON
  • Margaret Stewart, Kingston, ON


  • Irene MacDonald, Past Co-Chair Lantern Fund, CW4WAfghan, Calgary, AB
  • Deborah Alexander, Past Co-Chair Lantern Fund, CW4WAfghan, Calgary, AB


  • Louise Pascale, Boston, USA
  • Linda Middaugh, Halton, ON 

BANFF 2015

  • Murwarid Ziayee, Calgary, AB


  • Mellissa Fung, Washington, DC


  • Marnie Gustavson, Kabul, AF
  • Lauryn Oates, Vancouver, BC


  • Ash Khan, Calgary, AB
  • Deborah Ellis, Simcoe, ON


  • Janice Eisenhauer, Calgary, AB
  • Sally Armstrong, Oakville, ON

Thank you all again for this extraordinary honor.  I receive this award with great humility and vow to continue this work with a vision of  Afghanistan where all Afghans will live in a peaceful harmony.  Louise – 2016 

I was honoured, humbled and very surprised to win this prestigious award, the Champion Award. As a volunteer within our national network I feel that I am sharing it with all of the other volunteers that work tirelessly on behalf of Afghan women and children. I will treasure this recognition. Thank you.  Linda – 2016

Deborah Ellis

Canadian Award-winning author and founder of CW4WAfghan

Deborah Ellis, has generously donated all the royalties made through the sales of her books, The Breadwinner and Parvana’s Journey to our volunteer non-profit organization. The Breadwinner trilogy and its inspiration came out of a visit to Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. Deb travelled there in 1998 to collect research information for her adult non-fiction book Women of the Afghan War. While living at the camps for three months, Deborah had the opportunity to speak with Afghan women and hear their experiences. One story in particular left a lasting impression: A woman from Kabul mentioned that her daughter was pretending to be a boy in order to support her family. After hearing this, Deborah knew that she needed to write a children’s novel about a child with a similar story. In the spring of 2001, The Breadwinner was published. After the events of 9/11, teachers and parents needed resources that would help North American children understand what their peers in Afghanistan were facing and The Breadwinner was catapulted into the spotlight. Subsequently, The Breadwinner has been made available to young readers in countries around the world, and was even made into a film in 2017. The sequel Parvana’s Journey was followed by Mud City, and then by One More Mountain in 2022.

Deb called her friends at CW4WAfghan and announced, “I have a cheque for you for $3,000 as an advance on my first book about Parvana. I don’t know how the book will sell but this is a start to help a school in Afghanistan.” Since that day in March 2001, the royalties from these two books have brought in an astounding $2,400,000!

Plaque for Champion for Education in Afghanistan for Aziz Royesh

Aziz Royesh

In 2020, we recognized veteran Afghan educator and visionary leader Aziz Royesh as recipient of the Champion for Education in Afghanistan. A lifelong advocate of equal access to education, Aziz is the founder of the Marefat School, a community supported, grassroots education centre in Kabul, which began serving Afghan refugees in Pakistan in 1994, and has grown into one of the most successful schools in Afghanistan, with a dynamic curriculum that inculcates skills like critical thinking and civic responsibility, serving both girls and boys equally, besides its literacy education school for adults. Serving children from all socio-economic backgrounds, Marefat is an innovative centre of learning, where children develop autonomy and confidence through programs that include music, an art gallery, a student governance system, and more. For his visionary educational leadership and his activism, Aziz has been a World Fellow at Yale University, a Fellow of the US National Endowment for Democracy, and a Global Teacher Prize finalist. 

“Aziz has seen with unusual clarity the link between education and peace, and realized that education plays a role – if not the pivotal role – in processes like democratic development and peacebuilding,” said Lauryn Oates, executive director of CW4WAfghan. “His success is not only the thousands of children who have graduated from Marefat, but lies in the kind of education they got at Marefat. This is a school that doesn’t just graduate students, but graduates leaders.”