I have been in Afghanistan for over a week now and am finally feeling that I have settled in. Living in Afghanistan has proved to be a challenge, although I expected as much.
Security is the main issue of concern here, especially with the upcoming elections, and the issue of security has dominated almost every issue of our lives here; from where we will live, to how we can travel around the city and the provinces. Just going to the store to buy groceries is difficult because Ginny and I must travel together and make sure we are dressed appropriately.
Kabul is a fascinating city. Years of war have left many parts of the city virtually destroyed, yet some signs of life are reappearing. I feel however, that many pictures of Kabul that are painted in the media are an exaggeration of the development that has taken place.
There are hotels, restaurants, and shops, but many are run-down or hidden due to the security threat. There are garbage heaps and open sewers in the streets, and most of the buildings are riddled with bullet holes. There is a fine layer of dust that covers the city, and makes everything a little dirty. Kabul does have beautiful views of the mountains in the distance, however, and very pretty houses built on the hills at the foot of the mountains.
Although after the fall of the Taliban there were pictures broadcast around the world of women joyously ripping off their burkas, the reality is far different. About 70% of the women I see in the streets still wear the light-blue burka.
When we asked one of the women in our office about it, she said that many women still wear a burka to avoid the stares of men in the street. Although the burka has been adopted as an international symbol of the plight of women in Afghanistan, many women simply feel more comfortable wearing one, and it is not required. I am tempted to buy one to see how it feels under the heavy material.
We spent the first week living at the office of AWN, but have finally moved to a new location. It is nice to get out of the office, and I take advantage of every opportunity I get to get out and see the city, even if it’s only by taxi.
Most of the work we have been doing at Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) relates to the NGO directory. AWN is an umbrella organization of over 70 women NGOs in Afghanistan. These NGOs tackle a variety of issues related to women issues in Afghanistan, from health care to education.
AWN is compiling a directory of their NGOs in order to highlight the differences in their mission statements and work. The Taliban’s treatment of women made women’s rights in Afghanistan a hot topic, and women’s NGOs quickly began to appear in Kabul after the war.
It is keeping us busy, but I admit that I am looking forward to Sadiqa’s return when we can begin working on the education project. I want to see the progress that the schools have made, and meet the students.
Posted By Sarah Schores (Afghanistan)
Posted Jun 28th, 2004