I am stuck in Pakistan for at least another five days. Leeda, the admin./finance officer in the Peshawar office who has been answering all my question about the voter registration project and attempting top set up a visit for me to the Afghan refugee camp in Peshawar, came down with malaria this week and, obviously, is unable to work. I was concerned and shocked about her diagnosis. She felt really sick on Wednesday, and Thursday we were informed that she had caught malaria. She has medicine and will be all right, luckily.
But I, as I guiltily have to admit, am a little worried about the myriad of mosquito bites I have received this week-I did not consider Peshawar as a major malaria hot-spot. But, since I have not been able to get all my questions answered this week, I will stay until Wednesday before returning to Kabul. I have to admit, I am anxious to get back because of the activity and excitement in the Afghan capital due to the announcement of vice presidential nominations. Hopefully, the election shake-up will not cause more violence.
Although I do want to get back to Kabul, I have appreciated my time in Peshawar. The AWN office has gone out of its way to answer my questions quickly and completely. I cannot deny that there are huge problems in all AWN offices, most notably communication problems between AWN offices, and between AWN and AP.
However, as I found have, many of the problems are technical problems, rather than inability of the staff. Communicating in Kabul and Peshawar reminds me a bit of trying to run underwater; no matter what effort is put in, it is still impossible to get anything accomplished easily or efficiently. We talked about this problem, and I gave suggestions on how to improve communication, but I can’t help but feel that my suggestions will go unheeded.
Another problem AWN faces is the difference in working schedules between the Peshawar and Kabul AWN office. While Pakistan adheres to the more “Western” workweek of Monday to Friday, in Kabul Friday and Saturday are holidays and people work Sunday to Thursday, in adherence to the Muslim holy day (Friday). This sounds like a minute point, but Leeda explained to me this is a problem because a question in the Peshawar office on Thursday cannot be answered until Monday. Adding the Internet problem into the mix, I realized just how difficult communications between the two offices really are.
One of the main problems I am having in my internship is collecting pictures for the AP website. Pictures make a story so much more interesting and realistic, but in Afghanistan are almost impossible to procure. The vast majority of Afghan women do not allow themselves to be photographed.
Only one woman in the office has allowed me to photograph her, and only from a side profile. I was allowed to take pictures of several girls working at AWN’s Internet café, but only from the back. It struck me as ironic that I am working for a women’s rights organization which is helping to empower Afghan women, yet the very women who worked for AWN would not let me take a their picture so AP could promote their cause.
However, I had to respect their wishes. So, all together, this has been a frustrating, yet cautiously hopeful, trip. AWN faces many, many problems in trying to run a successful and useful organization, but I have seen that the women here DO seem to honestly care about their work and are willing to take suggestions to try to improve it. We’ll see what happens.
Posted By Sarah Schores (Afghanistan)
Posted Jul 31st, 2004