Upon reaching Godah district, our bumpy ride proved fruitless as we entered an empty mosque/school. So there arose 2 options: First, return to Kabul and come back to Wardak. This was not appealing since it was already difficult just to get out here in the first place. The second option was to spend the night in Wardak. I said that as long as we get a message back to Sarah and John (our apartment host who is a journalist and easily riled over security) it was fine. We drove back to Sadiqa’s uncle’s house and her father went to find the only satellite phone in Wardak to call everyone in Kabul to let them know.
Sadiqa’s family home is really beautiful, constructed of mud brick and open air in the center. It is surrounded by beautiful mountains and the lower Godah valley. Her uncle is married with 7 children – 6 girls and 1 boy, unfortunate by some Afghan families’ standards. During the afternoon, I met a small group of girls who attend the Godah School.
One girl Masooma wants to keep learning until she is a doctor, teacher and engineer. When asked why she attends school, she responded “I love it. When I go, I feel like I learn something.” Another girl, Latifah explained that she wanted to become a doctor and a teacher but prefers teaching. Although there is only 1 male doctor in this district – her father serves as the town’s only doctor although he is a trained pharmacist – there are no female teachers. It is the same challenge as Noor Hel in terms of increasing retention rates for girls who cannot show their faces to male teachers.
Sadiqa, the girls and I walked up the stony hill behind the house to see a possible construction site for a new school building. Currently, the school is divided between 2 mosques in town. She hopes to build a school with 8-15 classrooms and administrative offices. There is a road winding around the hill that can easily be connected to the hilltop should a school be built there. The girls were excited about the possibility and willingly took pictures before returning to the house.
That night, we sat under the stars in the middle part of the house eating dinner and talking to her father and uncle about reaching out to the local religious leadership regarding the maintenance of girls’ education. In Afghanistan, the mere hint of possible support is taken as a solid promise. Meanwhile, agreements that are already defined and in motion must be constantly discussed and restated to ensure that they are not obstructed or ended abruptly due to misunderstandings.
Sadiqa insisted that her family invite the seven local mullahs for lunch to discuss promoting education for all as stated in the Koran during their khutbah, or prayer sermons. She also wanted to discuss the possibility of asking them to request female teachers from the Ministry of Education. Such a request made by an Afghan woman – even one as strong willed as Sadiqa – is likely to be met with opposition regarding their safety, local mullahs’ approvals, and other various bureaucratic barriers.
If the mullahs directly make the request, it is more likely to happen. I fell asleep as Sadiqa continued to argue her points for a meeting with the local religious leadership. The next morning, she told me that she insisted that she would not sleep until such a meeting was agreed upon. I have yet to learn this part of Afghan negotiations…
Posted By Ginny Barahona (Afghanistan)
Posted Jul 27th, 2004