Today I got a chance to see the AWN’s Peshawar office. AWN was actually formed in Peshawar during 1995 when the Taliban was beginning its push to control Afghanistan, and it didn’t move to Kabul until after the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Most of the logistical work, such as website design and creation of the AWN magazine and newsletter, is done in Peshawar.
I met the women who work in the office, and everyone seemed very friendly and were very interested in why I was in Afghanistan. I tried, unsuccessfully, to explain that I was in graduate school, and here for a summer internship. I think the idea of graduate school is a relatively unknown one in Afghanistan and this part of Pakistan, and I don’t think they understood what I do, but were willing to help.
I am beginning to understand the problem that AWN and AP both face in communicating with each other. I tried to get onto the Internet to tell my family that I had arrived safely, and attempted (unsuccessfully) for an hour to get online. There were no apparent problems with the connection, it was just SLOW. I was told this was completely normal, and even expected.
The electricity also failed several times in the morning, causing several of my colleagues to lose the material they were working on in their computers. Luckily for me, my laptop has a battery. I felt the frustration of working in an office where the major constraint is not ability or commitment, but a lack of resources and technology.
However, aside from the Internet mishap (which I was able to remedy by a trip to a nearby Internet café), I was able to get more work done than I could have in the Kabul office. The women were willing to sit down, talk with me, and answer my questions in a straightforward manner (all things that were close to impossible to accomplish in Kabul).
I talked with Leeda for an hour about the voter registration project and she was able to answer most of my questions. Afghanistan was recently given permission by the Pakistani government to allow Afghan refugees to register and vote in Pakistan. This is good news for the hundreds of thousands of refugees living in Pakistan.
They have not decided the date when registration will begin, but it is thought that it will be soon. Hopefully, it will begin before I leave Peshawar, and I can travel to a refugee camp and witness the registration process. The voter registration project that AWN completed has educated a few hundred women in Peshawar, but they have not yet been allowed to vote. It would be great to be able to see that.
Tomorrow I also plan to talk with Hamila, the woman in charge of the website and newsletter. She seemed eager to improve the media and communications arm of AWN, which will give the organization better publicity and let more people know about AWN’s accomplishments and projected activities. So far, this Pakistan visit has been very productive and useful to me. Hopefully, I can return to Kabul with a lot more knowledge about AWN’s structure and how it is run than I previously had.
Posted By Sarah Schores (Afghanistan)
Posted Jul 26th, 2004