Shirin Sahani (Afghanistan)

Shirin Sahani (Omid Learning Center, Afghanistan): Shirin described herself as a “cultural nomad,” having been born in India and brought up in Iran, as well as a consummate traveler. Before pursuing a graduate degree, Shirin developed and implemented marketing communications strategies for companies in the technology, industrial and medical markets. After this exposure to the corporate sector, Shirin took her skills to the international arena, more specifically civil society organizations working on women’s social and political development in the Middle East and Asia. At the time of her fellowship, Shirin was pursuing a graduate degree at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

Shopping for Tents

22 Jul

Sadiqa and I spent the week shopping and preparing for our trip to the Godah and Noor Khel schools in Wardak. We had been trying to contact UNICEF for over three weeks for their assistance with tent donations but to no avail. Most of the girls’ schools are housed in tents due to OMID’s current lack of funding for building structures. The tents have to be periodically replaced due to wear and tear and this has not been an issue in the past.
In the past few months, however the price of tents has skyrocketed from $90 to $400 and Sadiqa and I were hoping to get some assistance from UNICEF to alleviate the burden on limited financial resources. It turns out that UNICEF has exhausted its supply of tents for the province of Wardak and the person in charge of the emergency allocation of tents is out of town for the next two weeks for a seminar. I find it hard to believe that all decisions have to come to standstill with one person’s absence but no one else seems to be able to make a decision on giving us 4 tents so that the girls don’t have to sit outside in the dust and blaring sun.

Sadiqa and I decided to go ahead and purchase the needed tents for now and follow-up with UNICEF once we return from Wardak. On Tuesday, we set out early to the central market in downtown Kabul to buy tents and blackboards. Everything is available for a price here, even supplies that are technically donations such as UNHCR and UNICEF tents and WFP food supplies.

When we asked the tent seller how these donations came to be for sale, his explanation centered on the nature of donations and corruption. Refugees who obtain these supplies will often trade or sell them for other needed necessities. However, more than 50% of the supplies come to the market as a result of corruption.

Officials will donate 25% of the supplies allocated and sell the rest in the black market. There is no way for me to verify these figures or the shopkeepers story but fortunately he had enough pity for the plight of the girls and agreed to sell the tents to us at the reduced price of $250 a piece. This left him very little markup but after the hue and cry we made about the cause, he had no choice but to save face by selling us the tents at that price.

The tents were quite large and we would not be able to take them with us in the car on Sunday, so we hired a driver to take them to Godah. I hope they are up before our visit so that we can get the reaction of the community and the girls. In the meantime, I can’t help but wonder if the tents we ended up purchasing are part of the Wardak stock that should have been available to us.

Posted By Shirin Sahani (Afghanistan)

Posted Jul 22nd, 2005

1 Comment

  • Norma Holt

    December 10, 2008


    Nice story, interesting site

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