Many of you, readers who followed my work and activities over the past decade or so know how important it has been for me to focus on subjects and priorities that gets no or very little attention and to reach to areas, where due to “visibility” excuses many NGOs or INGOs do not bother to reach out. In one of my previously jobs, as founder and executive director of HAWCA (1999-2007) I have started with educating girls and women, when it was formally forbidden by the ruling regime of Taliban and obviously many saw that as “a crazy idea by a young and ambitious girl”; later we focused on building schools in remote parts of Samangan, Nuristan and other areas where for all different reasons, others were not active. We priorities protection of violence against women and by then 2003-4 it was not a priority for majority of other groups, it was perceived a ‘highly risky field to work on’. The impact and result of these works can only be seen in the long-term, but having those priorities by then was one of the most crucial contributions I have made in the field of development and progressing of Afghanistan and its people, one that I can say I will always be proud of.
Recently, more in an individual capacity, I continued working on education and building schools, in similar areas, remote and with limited access. I think educating girls and boys is a priority that needs to be a shared responsibility of all Afghans who should not leave it all for the government and donors and instead have a commitment that in their lives, they educate or support education of at least some -if not many- people around them.
Earlier this year, I was invited by some respected friends to join Afghanaid as a Trustee. Like some one at a reception asked me: “What makes you a trustee? Are you very rich?” I responded, if richness is indicated by amount of money that I own, no Sir, I am not rich. “Then, you must be doing something very special that they’ve made you a Trustee”. And my response was, perhaps yes, it is my experiences on the ground. Trustee membership of not-for-profit organisation is a voluntary work with no financial compensations, but it is a rewarding work as one gets involved in doing good to the people and empowerment of rural communities.
Despite the fact that I am juggling with too many priorities and my research keeps me very busy giving me very little free time, I have agreed to join Afghanaid as a Trustee. I did so, because I admire their work and I found their priorities very similar to mine. Afghanaid focuses on rural communities, it has a long-term approach and their team is aiming to build relations with communities they are working with, beyond just providing funding and resources. This is what is so important in making a development work more effective and meaningful. They aim to work with communities, helping them out building their own way of earning a living.
This coming week, Afghanaid celebrates, its 30th Birthday. And a series of events are organised to commemorate 30 years of Afghanaid’s work in Afghanistan.
They have published an incredible book called ‘Thirty years, Thirty stories. Reflections on Afghanaid’s work – 1983-2013.’ It’s a combo of first-hand stories and stunning portrait images of extraordinary Afghans – whose lives have been transformed with support from Afghanaid.
To bring the book to life, Afghanaid is hosting an exhibition of the images and stories at Gallery Different (14 Percy Street, W1T 1DR) from 5-9th November.
On Thursday, 7th of November, I will be joining Afghanaid for a storytelling evening – tell my own tales alongside the Sunday Times Foreign Correspondent, Christina Lamb, author, Elizabeth Chatwin (widow of novelist and travel writer Bruce Chatwin), author, Veronica Doubleday and others – who will be reading from the ‘Thirty years, Thirty stories’ book and sharing their own personal stories about Afghanistan. I know it would be a truly inspirational night.
If any of you are in London and have time, do not miss this event, where you will be able to listen, not to the usual and repetitive statements of ‘don’t leave us alone’ but stories of women from rural communities whose lives have been changed over the past decades thanks to collaboration and help of organisations like Afghan Aid. And for having some constructive humour spirit in the room, hearing stories of Afghanaid colleagues on certain things did not work in the way they were supposed to work!
For more details on this and other events, please visit: http://www.afghanaid.org.uk/pages/30.html