Fall / Winter 2017
Dear Friends In 2017, I was in Afghanistan for March and April and in touch with our volunteers, leaders, and partners on the ground frequently the rest of the year. The security situation continues to deteriorate and life is very difficult there. Despite this, AWF manages to continue our work in various rural areas with women’s groups and entire villages. In addition to the many women who organize, teach, and sacrifice for Afghanistan’s future, I also want to thank AWF’s many male volunteers in Afghanistan. They travel dangerous roads to check on and support our schools, clinics, and literacy classes, carrying supplies and information, and they are central to keeping AWF’s work going. As we look ahead to 2018, the need for AWF’s work continues.
We, especially AWF volunteers and partners in Afghanistan, face steep challenges: uncertainty, a lack of resources and funding, ongoing fighting, and corruption. Still, everyone we work with is driven towards learning and self-sufficiency, and AWF is dedicated to helping however we can. We cannot do it without a wide network of supporters: Thank you! And please contact us to help support AWF projects in the year ahead. Peace, Fahima Gaheez Director, Afghan Women’s Fund www.afghanwomensfund.org
2018 Goals & Priorities Like all Afghan rebuilding and solidarity organizations, donations to AWF have decreased in recent years as many other issues command people’s attention. Therefore, for 2018, we are prioritizing: (1) building a school building in the Azad Khan area of Ghazni, (2) our new partners in Badakhshan (see inside), and of course (3) continuing our literacy classes and provision of school supplies that enable girls to attend school.
AWF continues to work closely with young Afghan volunteers from the “Non-Violent World Organization” we profiled in the last newsletter. In 2017, our collaboration focused on their travelling to schools and other organizations to train students, teachers, and others in non-violence, often while distributing AWF-sponsored school supplies. NVWO volunteers discourage corporal punishment (such as hitting children with rulers) and encourage teachers to teach peaceful conflict resolution and problem solving. They emphasize the respected position that teachers occupy, urging them to avoid yelling at or insulting students, which can impede pupils’ education and send messages that violence is an acceptable means of solving problems.
Non-Violence Conference NVWO and AWF held an anti-violence conference in April, in Jalalabad. Professors and students were invited to discuss 40 years of war in Afghanistan and its complex and far-reaching impact on society and within families. Teach-ins and workshops focused on ideologies of peace and non-violence, including the teachings of Bacha Khan, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and MLK. This was NVWO’s third such conference in the past two years. AWF was glad to help invite a broad range of attendees and presenters, from more provinces and varied ethnic backgrounds than before. Some attendees attended training on visiting high schools and colleges to talk about peace and non-violent problem resolution, expanding the NVWO teams and their reach. We hope to hold future conferences in other provinces, with high hopes for one in Badakhshan in 2018. Already, in 2017, NVWO volunteers held a smaller teach-in in Mazar-e Sharif.
Afghan Women’s Fund
Attendees at the Non-Violence Conference The banner says “The Afghan Young Generation endorses the Ideals of the famous Bacha Khan,” a contemporary of and collaborator with M. Gandhi. Most women attending declined photos.
AWF continues to have many projects in Logar. The Sher Mohammad Khan Girls High School remains one of few in the region. Its employment of both male and female teachers is progressive for the area. Staff note that such “mundane” routines as working in the same teacher room, walking the same halls, and discussing the same students are valuable for men and women to experience each other as equals and for the students and community to see them working together. Such respectful relationships help civil society recover from the rigidly enforced gender separation and hostility of the Taliban era and continued by some current extremists. AWF visits this school at least annually and delivers school supplies.
New Partners in Badakhshan In 2017, AWF began a new partnership in the Shaghnan district of Badakhshan province. A local man is repairing abandoned and damaged houses and buildings to use for schools in an area that has none. He has enlisted volunteer laborers and teachers and a few classes have started. AWF has agreed to work to raise funds to buy doors, windows, and paint for two buildings and to provide school supplies, books, and four computers. These efforts will allow about 800 children to attend school who currently have no access. Given the area’s frequent fighting and conservative culture we cannot name the founding volunteer, who is contributing a home he inherited and has deep local ties and dedication to education for both girls and boys. Please contact us to help make this a reality!
Students and S.M. Khan Girl’s High School in Logar
Malalai Ceremony Benefits Struggling School Although the large addition to AWF’s Malalai school had been in use for months, the ceremonial ribbon cutting waited until Fahima‘s visit in April. The photo below shows a teacher (center) and the Logar Province’s Education Minister (right). Earlier in her Logar visit, Fahima
The first of the repaired Badakhshan houses
met with teachers and pupils using a ruined building for classes. At the Malalai ceremony, she asked the Education Minister why he had not found better facilities for that school. In response, he secured a safer location for the elementary classes, and Malalai school agreed to shift its schedule so older classes could meet in its building temporarily. Also at the ceremony, several male elders discussed the need for more literacy classes for teens and grown women barred from education during Talban years. The man who donated the addition’s land offered to coordinate. They now report 6 new classes in 4 local villages, enrolling about 150 women for a year. Some teens will join 5th or 6th grade afterwards.
New Partnership in Mohammad Agha District In 2017, AWF bought 8 class-room sized tents with walls and windows to help local partners in the Mohammad Agha district of Logar Province, where there is high unmet demand for children's education There are no school buildings in this area and the climate is very hot, making open-air classes difficult. In planning this tent
Above: Classes in the sun before the tents. Below: Two completed tents and a third being prepared
Boys and volunteers celebrating the progress of The M. Salem Stanekzai School
school, the Logar Education Minister predicted 300 students would register, but when the tents were delivered, 550 showed up in anticipation of registration. To date more than 900 girls and boys have enrolled; the school is using multiple shifts to educate them all. It is named after Mohammad Salem Stanekzai, a young male teacher who was killed by extremists in early 2017.
Kabul Province At the Mir Bacha Kot school, AWF provided the teacher’s salary and equipment for computer instruction; 60 girls were enrolled in the first class. We also bought two classroom -sized tents to welcome another 80 students, and provided medical supplies for their in-house clinic (a doctor and a nurse ) which serves the entire community. The photo above shows the principal in the school’s main office. She is an excellent leader and advocate for her school, teacher, and students, instrumental in making the school one of the top in the region. The Mir Bacha Kot Clinic also continues its excellent work. Recently its incubator broke; they asked AWF’s help raising $2,000 to replace it. Please reach out to us if you can assist. Thank you! AWF helped start the Mama Janak Elementary School in 2012. In 2017 it educated >300 students and added 4th grade. The school has no classroom furniture in order to
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accommodate the many women and children who crowd in for its regularly-held first aid and vaccination clinic. Nonetheless, the students are excelling, and men’s and women’s groups also use the school after hours for literacy classes and meetings. In fact, AWF and the local village originally built the nineroom building for a women’s shura and community activities. However, the urgent need for education led to its use as an elementary school. Villagers are advocating for a government school but it is just a hope at this point. They have also asked AWF to try to raise money to build a proper school.
AWF is 100% volunteer organization committed to helping the people, especially women and girls, of Afghanistan forge a better future. This is a huge task and is not possible without your support, for which we are so grateful. Thank you for your help and trust these many years, and into the future. COURAGE COMPASSION CHANGE Courage to create a new and peaceful society. Compassion for the women, children and all those who suffer in these times. Change through education, healthcare and sustainable employment.
PLEASE SUPPORT AWF
via credit card at our website
www.afghanwomensfund.org Or send your tax-deductible donation to:
AWF c/o Jean Athey P.O. Box 1563 Olney, MD 20830