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Posts Tagged ‘women’

Afghan children wait for donations*

An Afghan skater waits for the future**

There are a TON of great charities supporting the people of Afghanistan…I’m hopeful I’ll get many more suggestions.  But for now, these are my favorites:

Afghans4Tomorow – An organization working to rebuild Afghanistan, through health, education, and agriculture projects…such as a training program to make fuel briquettes (as an alternative to increasingly scarce wood) and the first Science Fair in Afghan history!

OLPC Afghanistan – The One Laptop Per Child vision…to create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power computer…is compelling.  The OLPC hardware and approach are less so.  But for now, OLPC seems a good way to move the children of Afghanistan into the digital age.

Pakistan Flood Relief – Pakistan is the home of Al-Qaeda, a strong Taliban movement, nuclear weapons, and now, the largest humanitarian crisis the international community has ever faced.  Much of the country remains flooded, but even when the waters recede, disease, and hunger remain…along with radical insurgents, who are only too happy to take advantage of the chaos.  Support to Pakistani children today–clean water, safe sanitation, vaccinations, protection from violence, and nutrition–will save Afghan lives in the future.  And likely, American lives as well.

Skateistan – The world’s first co-educational skateboarding school, and arguably the coolest charity in the universe.  Their video, Skateistan: To Live and Skate Kabul, is a great intro…you’ll understand why it earned “Best Documentary” and “Best Photography” awards at the LA Skate Film Festival last month.

Turquoise Mountain – An organization dedicated to regenerating historic urban areas in Afghanistan and renewing traditional Afghan arts and architecture.  Interestingly, it was established by Rory Stewart, Member of the British Parliament and author of my favorite book about Afghanistan, The Places In Between.

Women of Hope Project – Setting women free from poverty and oppression is a TALL order in Afghanistan, but Women of Hope is making progress.  Their embroidery project, for example, gives women the opportunity to sell their embroidered goods at Coalition bazaars throughout Kabul.  The income, though meager, means their children can attend school instead of having to work.

Bottom line:  Charitable organizations are making a difference in Afghanistan.  You can help.

* Photo by an unknown NTM-A volunteer

** Photo by Uggi Kaldan, at Reklamebilleder

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Afghan women line up to vote under Afghan National Police protection*

Workers take ballot boxes to a remote polling station in Panjshir Province **

Within hours, the polls will open for the 2010 Afghan Parliamentary elections

I supported the Afghan National Army and Police forces during the 2009 Afghan Presidential election and was relieved when the parliamentary elections (originally scheduled for May) were postponed.

So with apologies to Clint Eastwood, here’s my take on the upcoming elections…

The good:  People will vote.  It’s obvious, but we tend to forget that an election in a country like Afghanistan is a Big Deal.  Are Afghans racked by war?   Duh.  Illiterate?  Almost entirely.  Discriminatory?  Mostly…especially against women.   But despite all that, Afghans will turn out to vote tomorrow, choosing their representatives on a ballot (like this) with candidate icons and pictures.   And 405 of the 2,577 candidates will be women.

The bad:  There will be fraud.  With fake voter registration cards going for only 23 cents apiece, it might be more accurate to say there will be LOTS of fraud.  But there is some silver lining:  It shouldn’t be as bad as the 2009 Presidential elections, and both Afghans and the International Community are watching closely, so it should get better over time.

The ugly:  As Joshua Faust points out, there will be blood.  According to the Afghan Ministry of the Interior, Afghanistan has deployed 52,000 Afghan National Police and 63,000 Afghan National Army personnel across the country to provide election security.  Additionally, NATO forces stand ready to provide emergency security, medical and logistical support.  But voters are a VERY lucrative target for the insurgents, and the Taliban is both ruthless and effective…

Bottom line: For good, bad, or ugly, Afghans will choose their representatives tomorrow.  Like Rat, in Stephan Pastis’ comic Pearls Before Swine, I expect the best…

* Photo by Tyler Hicks, of the New York Times

** Photo by Shah Marai, of Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

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View from TV Hill, with zoom

Zooming from TV Hill

Kabul wall

The old city wall

There’s a wall running along Sher Darwaza Mountain that’s hard to miss from almost anywhere in Kabul.  It appears big from a distance, but I understand it’s HUGE close-up…something like 7m high and 4m thick.  It was built by Zanbilak Shah, the last King of Kabul-Shahan , as protection from invaders during one of the innumerable wars that swept Afghanistan during the 5th century (as I’ve mentioned before, Afghanistan is timeless…and not necessarily in a good way).

Zanbilak had all the men of the city working on the wall 24/7, almost as slaves, and the project was utterly grinding the people into the ground.  Legend has it that one day a couple was married in Kabul, but Zanbilak wouldn’t allow them their wedding night because the husband had to work on the wall.  Well the new bride, mightily ticked off, went up to the wall to confront Zanbilak.  In her anger, she ended up throwing a rock at him, knocking him down.  All the men were shamed–if a woman would dare to take on the king, there was no way they were going to put up with the oppression.  So they rioted.  And then, after the riot, they built one last bit of wall.

Zanbilak remains buried under that section today.

Bottom line:  Not sure Zanbilak’s Wall would work as a bedtime story in America.  But it does in Afghanistan.

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Selling Kleenex

Selling Kleenex in the street is a tough way to make a living ...

...but not as tough as begging from a pothole with your kids

The picture captions say almost everything that needs to be said.

For stories of other women in Kabul, I recommend this Washington Post Special Report by Paula Lerner.  To help, I recommend Women of Hope Project.

Bottom line:  Whenever I think my job’s tough, I just remember the women in these photos…and suddenly, it seems REALLY easy.

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