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Scranton group part of restaurant venture by women in Afghanistan

| Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, 9:00 p.m.

Opening a restaurant anywhere is notoriously risky.

Those risks increase when the restaurant is opened in Afghanistan and run by women.

But risks have never deterred Suraya Pakzad, the founding director of Voice of Women Organization, which provides safe shelters and education for women and girls who face oppression in her native country.

A group of potential supporters gathered on Friday at Posh at the Scranton Club, where plans for the restaurant were discussed. Attorney Judith Price, Sondra Myers and Chelsea Barrows, three of the event organizers, presented the idea for a Northeast Pennsylvania-funded restaurant after Pakzad was unable to attend because of an illness. The restaurant will teach the women financial literacy, business skills and ultimately how to become self-sufficient.

Also unable to attend was the fourth organizer, Lackawanna County Judge Margaret Bisignani-Moyle, and honorary co-chairmen Sen. Bob Casey and his wife, Terese.

The gathering was held days after the adoption of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which will require the Department of Defense to create a plan to safeguard Afghan women and girls as the U.S. military leaves Afghanistan.

“Empowered women can have an enormous impact on their communities,” Mr. Casey said in a video address to the group.

It will take $25,000 to equip the restaurant and give the project life, Price said, noting that a plaque recognizing the financial support of Northeast Pennsylvania will be displayed. One of the attendees questioned whether donations would be intercepted by the government, but Price was quick to assuage concerns.

“It will not be touched by the government or warlords,” she said firmly. “That's why (Pakzad) has to go to outside sources and outside countries.”

Barrows, who works as a financial professional, hopes area residents embrace the project.

“We wanted to be able to create something that the people of Scranton could realistically stand behind and sustain,” she said.

“We have to recognize the plight of these women as our plight,” Myers added.

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