- Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, said she fears for Afghan women and girls under Taliban rule.
- She launched a fundraiser and is starting another one for nonprofits helping Afghans.
- Other prominent figures are sharing stories about Afghan women to raise awareness.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Sheryl Sandberg knew the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, Afghanistan, last week was a crisis. But it wasn’t until she read an open letter penned by a young Afghan woman that the totality of the situation – specifically its effect on women and girls – sank in.
The university student described how her friends weren’t able to get on a bus because drivers feared Taliban retaliation for driving women. Other women fled their jobs knowing they wouldn’t be able to work under Taliban rule. Many feared they were going to be beaten for not wearing a burqa.
“I was devastated,” said Sandberg, Facebook’s COO and a women’s-rights activist. “Her story was horrific. She made this crisis visible to me. So many times a situation feels overwhelming because it’s all too big. In economics, we talk about this as ‘the invisible victim.’ There are just too many people impacted. It becomes invisible.”
Reading the letter prompted Sandberg to act. Earlier this month, she launched a Facebook fundraiser that drew in $59,000 for the International Rescue Committee, which helps refugees with medicine and housing. She and her fiancé, the marketing CEO Tom Bernthal, personally matched the donation for a total of $118,000.
Ahead of her birthday on Saturday, the Facebook executive is launching another campaign – this time for CARE’s emergency fund for Afghanistan. CARE is a nonprofit dedicated to helping those affected by poverty or crisis, specifically women and children.
“I’ve been on the ground and have seen the work they do in refugee areas. They have people on the ground who are ready, willing, and able to work,” Sandberg said.
In August 2019, Sandberg visited an Azraq refugee camp in northern Jordan with the IRC and CARE. She then visited a refugee camp in Greece with IsraAid.
Sandberg isn’t the only public figure raising awareness of the crisis. Angelina Jolie, an actor and humanitarian, said she recently joined Instagram to spotlight a letter from an Afghan girl detailing her fears for women’s rights in her country.
“I will continue to look for ways to help. And I hope you’ll join me,” Jolie wrote.
The Oscar-winning actor Olivia Colman, “Game of Thrones” star Lena Headey, and musician Dan Smith are raising money to help Afghan refugees. Separately, the Instagram memer Tommy Marcus, also known as @quentin.quarantino, started a campaign that raised over $6 million.
Facebook also said it’s taking steps to help protect Afghans. Last week, the tech giant announced that it’s implementing new measures to protect vulnerable users in Afghanistan, including a tool that lets users lock their profiles to prevent people not in their network from downloading their profile pictures or seeing their posts.
For Sandberg, helping women and girls around the world is part of her personal mission.
“The crisis in Afghanistan demands we all try to do whatever small thing we can possibly do,” Sandberg said. “It goes against everything I and so many people believe in. We believe women and girls and boys should have equal opportunity.”