Posted
Mar 28, 2018
by
Lisa Jervey Lennox, CIPA Assistant Director for External Relations & Communications
In Alumni, Cornell Institute for Public Affairs

Elaha Mahboob ’19, a student in the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs MPA program, is featured as a social entrepreneur in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list. Individuals are chosen for their ability to “[leverage] business tools to save the region’s problems.” Elaha is the co-founder of the New York-based Digital Citizen Fund (DCF) with her sister, Roya.  A nonprofit organization, DCF focuses on educating women and children in developing countries via digital and financial literacy programs. Elaha and Roya connect women with people and resources digitally, with the aim of facilitating their competition in the global market.

A first-year CIPA student from Afghanistan, Elaha is focusing her MPA studies on Science, Technology and Infrastructure. As part of her work with DCF, she mentors an all-girl robotics team from Afghanistan, which competes internationally.  While in college, Elaha and her sister also founded Afghan Citadel Software Company, the first female-owned IT business in Afghanistan.

Elaha and her sister with the Deputy Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the UN Lise Gregoire-van Haaren and Netherlands’ Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. André Haspels.

In January, Elaha Mahboob ’19 (second from left) and her sister Roya (far right) discussed how to best achieve long-term peace, stability and development in Afghanistan with Deputy Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the UN Lise Gregoire-van Haaren and Netherlands’ Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. André Haspels. / Photo credit: Netherlands Mission Staff to the UN

This past January, Elaha and her sister participated in a United Nations Security Council Meeting on Afghanistan, where they discussed how to best achieve long-term peace, stability and development in the country. There they had the opportunity to speak with the Netherlands’ Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In a speech to the UN Security Council, which followed their meeting, Netherlands’ Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. André Haspels lauded the sisters as “a living example of what has been achieved in Afghanistan.” The Vice Minister’s office subsequently released a video that featured his speech as well as an interview with Elaha and Roha, noting that, “meeting [Roya and Elaha] inspired our Vice-Minister's speech.”

“We discussed the current situation in Afghanistan and how we can bring change by focusing on economic development and providing job opportunities for the younger generation,” said Elaha. “It was a great honor for me that our work and efforts in terms of empowering women and giving them access to education and technology was recognized and shared with the Council by Mr. Haspels.”

Haspels specifically gave credit to Elaha and Roya’s work, noting that, “Thanks to their organization [DCF], Afghan girls today can study in Herat, where they are learning to build robots for hospitals and farms.”

Haspels also acknowledged that there is still much work to be done in Afghanistan.  “Roya and her sister reminded me of the many obstacles Afghans still face. The security situation is still volatile. Access to justice is limited.”  Moving forward, Haspel promised Afghanistan that the Netherlands would remain a committed partner in helping them achieve their goal of stability. 

A full transcript of the statement by H.E. André Haspels, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands at the January 19, 2018 Security Council Meeting on Afghanistan in New York City can be found here.