Erica Isaac (Afghanistan)

Erica Issac (Afghan Women’s Network – AWN): Erica is a native New Yorker and passionate photographer. After graduating summa cum laude from New York University in 1998, Erica went on to complete her MSc. in Gender and Economic Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science with a specialization in women and children’s welfare. She then traveled and worked as a researcher on the media installations for the South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town and for a feature length documentary called “Crossing the Bride”. She also worked in India and Nepal as a program assistant at safe houses for Tibetan refugees, in Pakistan with an underground domestic violence organization, and in Uganda with a repatriation organization for child soldiers. At the time of her fellowship, Erica was studying for an MPA in International Policy and Management at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service.


08 Jun

I want to feel like I feel today everyday for the rest of my life. Informed. Active. Involved. Accomplished. Important. Au Fait. Impressive. Ambitious. Oh, and really, really happy.

It is my first day of work at the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) and I split my morning between a meeting with the country directors of Christian Aid (one of the largest development donors in western Afghanistan) and two meetings with the UNDP (United Nations Development Program). In the first meeting I was asked to make gender recommendations for a pilot project seeking to involve civil society in ANDS (Afghan National Development Strategy) and in the second I was, along with the Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs, briefed about mainstreaming for UNDP initiatives is Afghanistan. You know, light, undaunting, wade-in-slowly sort of stuff for the first day.

Shukria, the project manager at AWN asked Carrie (who worked at AWN last summer and is, along with looking for a full-time job, doing some consulting for them this summer) and I to stand to the side when we left UNDP so she could hail a taxi and negotiate the price without us being seen. After the deed was done we jumped in and were whisked back to AWN for lunch. During our whirlwind lunch of rice, beans, salad and naan I was served with two shocking side dishes:

(1) I will be leading a summer-long working group composed of top Afghan scholars, lawyers, NGO (non-governmental organization) representatives and activists on how to strategically enhance Afghanistan’s relationship with CEDAW (CEDAW being the most comprehensive, significant and internationally binding UN resolution to eliminate violence against women, aka Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women). ‘My’ working group will a) develop a strategy to introduce CEDAW to Afghan civil society in accordance with Sharia (Islamic Law) and b) draft a shadow report, a document submitted by NGOs or other special interest groups to the UN to supplement formal government reports. Checks and balances so to speak.

Yup. That’s right. I will be helping Afghan women put pressure on their government to stand up in front of the world and uphold their commitment (signed 1980, ratified 2003) to a convention that offers them rights to everything from education to family planning and protection from everything from human trafficking to domestic violence.

(2) I will traveling to Herat to implement part of a training workshop on the importance of community organizing in combating GBV (gender based violence). I will be presenting to, and facilitating for, the leading women’s rights experts in western Afghanistan. The first day will be an overview of women’s rights movements in Afghanistan along with a discussion about the relevant social and legal resources available to women. The second day are workshops on the ‘whys’ and ‘whats’ involved with forming network based organizations. I am running the second day. Alone.

It is as if my life has just started right here before my eyes. I want to feel like I feel today everyday for the rest of my life.

Posted By Erica Isaac (Afghanistan)

Posted Jun 8th, 2006

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