Monday, 31 August 2009

Women for Women: Afghanistan.

As the results of the Afghan election await official confirmation, it seems appropriate to write about some small, hard-earned successes in this country.

First, Flora MacDonald has been involved with CARE projects in Afghanistan before the attacks on the WTC.

When she first traveled to Afghanistan, in 2001, the country was still under Taliban rule. Ms. MacDonald was working to establish underground schools for girls who were being denied an education. One day, when Ms. MacDonald was walking back from a visit to one of the secret schools two “big Taliban gentlemen” fell in step on either side of her. One could speak English and told her they knew what she was doing, but wouldn’t tell anyone if their daughters could attend the school too.

“Not all Taliban are militant, many want peace,” said Ms. MacDonald. This year in January, Azra Jafari became the country’s first female mayor of the town Nili, in Daikundi province. “I tell you I could have done a Highland dance,” said Ms. MacDonald.

The 82-year-old is passionate about the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan. Ms. MacDonald has been working to improve the plight of widows, the lack of education for girls, the thousands of street children orphaned by years of conflict, the lack of access to water and many other problems created by years of war and Taliban rule.

“Progress is being made in Afghanistan, although certainly not uniformly throughout the country,” said Ms. MacDonald. “It gives us all hope, though the work is long and hard and will not be carried out overnight.”

here. MacDonald's agenda is not political in the partisan sense of the word - it is progressive, respectful and compassionate.

Then from The Star, this:

"The women are growing carrots, cucumbers, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, grapes," says Catherine Sobrevega, country manager for MEDA Afghanistan. "But these are not the products you find being sold from the back of trucks on the side of the highway. These are higher-quality fruits and vegetables that are sold in supermarkets and to hotels."

MEDA is the Mennonite Economic Development Association, headquartered in Waterloo, which provides microfinancing for the Garden Gate Project in conjunction with CIDA. ...

"I'm not a Mennonite," notes Sobrevega, who hails from the Philippines and spent 14 years working for CARE International in Afghanistan before taking the MEDA job. "We don't try to bring faith. The only important thing is the sincerity you bring to the project."

The undertaking started with three villages in 2007, since expanded to nine, and 14 more are knocking on the door to join. That, too, is a victory of alien practice over rural culture, where women are severely circumscribed by Afghan patriarchy, rarely venturing outside their homes, discouraged from any activities not directly related to their families.

Through direct $2,000 MEDA grants and funds secured via various agencies, microfinancing is extended to these rural ladies for instruction in modern horticultural techniques and marketing acumen, linking them to a network of development organizations such as Women for Women and the Afghan Women's Business Council.

"What we do is provide the horticultural experts and link them to financial institutions that can provide them with loans because 50 per cent of the funding needs to come from the women themselves," says Sobrevega. ... A woman needs only show she has 250 square metres of land at her disposal, to start, with capacity to double that in the second or third year of gardening. Zero profit is expected in the first season of planting but $150 in the next and – with a greenhouse constructed, for example, an average of $380 in the third. That may seem piddling but it makes an immense difference to a rural household – allowing for the purchase of school supplies, appliances and other conveniences, even the odd luxury. And it's no small benefit that children get a better diet out of it to boot.

What an idea: a religious organization with a progressive, respectful and compassionate agenda. Those fundamentalist catholics attempting to destroy their very own Development and Peace might want to take a time-out from their shrieeeking temper tantrums to observe how small miracles actually work. With goodwill, an open mind and and a kind heart.

Check out this post at A Creative Revolution about RAWA - Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan - too.

No comments:

Post a Comment