Master of Arts in Sustainable International Development

Fighting for social justice and inclusion

Amir Timorkhani
Amir Timorkhani

“Afghanistan is a country that has a long history of discrimination, exclusion and gender inequality, which has led to mass poverty and chronic violence,” says Amir Timorkhani, MA SID/MBA’20. “I am determined to promote social justice in Afghanistan. To achieve peace and economic growth, we should promote social justice and inclusion. The beauty of the country is its diversity, which rarely has been celebrated as an advantage.”

Growing up in the Daikundi province, one of the most remote areas in the country, Timorkhani had limited access to education, health care and other basic services.

Despite these obstacles, his father and his maternal uncle motivated him to look beyond his circumstances. His father taught him to read and brought home many books, including ones on political and social leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. His uncle instilled in him a belief that both girls and boys should go to school. 

However, Timorkhani didn’t start a formal education until he was 10. His village didn’t have an elementary school until 2014, so he had to travel away from his family, earning his own tuition fees as a child shepherd and laborer on farms, often missing classes because he had to work.

After high school, he took a job as a janitor for the French nonprofit organization Action contre La Faim (Action Against Hunger). There, he started to learn English and French, and eventually, he was hired as a civic educator, traveling to villages and raising awareness about elections. 

After five years, Timorkhani traveled to the capital city of Kabul and enrolled in the American University of Afghanistan and started working the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).

“It was very challenging because I was a full-time employee while I was a full-time student,” says Timorkhani. But doing both was worth it, because having a job meant he could support his family members for additional educational opportunities.  

“There shouldn’t be a difference between girls and boys,” says Timorkhani. “My older sister now has five children, but when I had the chance, I motivated her to go to school. Now, she’s working for the election monitoring program in Afghanistan.”

After graduating in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, he set his sights on graduate programs in the United States. 

“My background keeps me motivated to look for a place with a big focus on social justice including management and leadership skills, and Heller is that place,” he says. As an Open Society Fellow at the Heller School, he started out as a master’s student in the MA in Sustainable International Development program, but after a year, added the Social Impact MBA as a second degree. “I want to acquire leadership and management skills while developing a deep understanding of development principles to become an agent of change.”

He loves his classmates, professors and staff members at Heller and values their diverse perspectives. “I feel a strong system of support and cooperation at Heller. I feel that I’m part of a community,” he says.  

When he graduates in 2020, he plans to focus on equitable and sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. He also wants to help manage the large amounts of international aid Afghanistan receives, which doesn’t reach people who need it most because of systemic corruption.    

“Brandeis University, particularly the Heller School, is an important place to build my skills, to empower myself to do better for my country,” Timorkhani says.