Determined Women: Together, Two Afghan MATC Students Are Finding Their Way

Fatema Watandost and Nikbakht Dadfar at the C building in Downtown Milwaukee Campus

Fatema Watandost (pictured left) and Nikbakht Dadfar at the Downtown Milwaukee Campus, C Building lobby for Milwaukee PBS

For Nikbakht Dadfar and Fatema Watandost, their friendship is a bond created and strengthened while working together in Afghanistan. They left behind family and friends to flee their country, enduring an arduous journey to the United States and striving to create a new life.

A vital step for both women has been taking English as a Second Language (ESL) courses at MATC to improve their English skills and prepare them for future college courses.

The two 26-year-olds arrived in the U.S. in August 2021, each with only a bag, a cellphone, a few dollars and the clothes on their backs. With assistance from organizations and volunteers, the women have found a place to live together.

Met at TV station in Afghanistan

Watandost and Dadfar worked at the same television station in Daykundi. After the Taliban seized control of the country in 2021, many Afghan television and film workers lost their jobs and went into hiding. As educated, female journalists, the two feared for their safety. “The situation became very bad for us,” Watandost explained. “The Taliban came and told us girls and women didn’t work in media and TV, and that university and schools were bad for us.”

I want to continue my education and go back to being a reporter so I can help my family.

Nikbakht Dadfar MATC English as a Second Language student

The two women came to the difficult conclusion that they had to leave. They made it to the Kabul airport and waited outside the gates in the hot sun for eight hours. Then they spent another day inside the terminal.

“It was so dangerous,” Dadfar said. “The Taliban were shooting at people. We didn’t have any plan at all.”

The women eventually boarded a plane to Qatar and then to the U.S. After four months at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, they arrived in Milwaukee in December 2021.

The International Institute of Wisconsin, which provides assistance to immigrants and refugees, found them an apartment. Volunteers at Congregation Sinai in Milwaukee connected with the women in January 2022 to give rides to stores and help them feel more comfortable in the city.

The two then began working at a manufacturing plant in Waukesha and taking online ESL classes from MATC. “I want to continue my education and go back to being a reporter so I can help my family,” Dadfar said. “Right now it’s very hard for them. But I have a lot of hope.”

Learn more about MATC’s English as a Second Language/English Language Learners programs at