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2006 Trip to Afghanistan

Sunday May 14, 2006 (10:37 AM)

My last full day in Kabul...

I’m not sure where to begin. I should go back and reread the last note because I can’t remember what I’ve told you already, but that seems like too much effort at the moment. We just walked in from a long day and will head out again for dinner shortly. Beth and Sean had wanted to do some wrap-up interviews but there was a sand storm. It actually looks like it might rain, which is incredible because this is the driest, dustiest place I’ve ever been (Afghanistan has suffered from extreme drought over the past five years). As Beth pointed out, when she blows her nose it looks like chocolate cake comes out. So if it were to actually rain while we are here I think it would be really cool. All the houses are made from mud bricks so it’s hard to believe that they don’t all melt when the rain comes but apparently they don’t.

Anyway, we woke up bright and early this morning and had an opportunity to meet with one of the women from parliament. We were actually allowed into the building without passports (long story why we didn’t have them on us). It was not something I had expected to be able to do on this trip so meeting one of the most powerful women here was intense. She told us about how she taught out of her home during the Taliban, she started a newspaper called Women Mirror to help women better understand their rights, and even though it sounds like she came from a relatively wealthy family, they never fled. She has three small children and she told us that her husband supports what she does. This was really interesting though... she had an arranged marriage but it sounds like they were good friends first. She described how he supports her, etc., but then two years ago (after she was already in parliament) he took a second wife. To me it’s such a slap in the face. Here she’s trying to get people to look at the value of women as the same as men and here her husband turns around and takes another wife. We couldn’t react too much but she said it was very painful for her.

From there we went to meet some of the women from the Women for Women program. Two years ago we gave a grant to support 100 women in an income-generating program. They learn bakery skills, embroidery, shoe making, etc. They also have access to human-rights awareness classes, literacy classes, etc. This past grant we just gave was for the same 100 women for business training. So basically, they have their skill and now they learn how and where to sell their merchandise, how to set up a shop or to take advantage of the micro-financing program. Literally, one woman said she learned that it was all about “location location location.” I guess she’ll pass the class with flying colors.

When we walked into the business training class, there were about 15 women all sitting around the edge of the room. I could immediately tell that although they were poor and are in much need of assistance, they were in no way as poor and as desperate as the women from the CARE program. The class at WWI was a mix of people from all of their programs and not specifically the 100 widows we were supporting. All of the CARE women we met are widows so I think that it’s an obvious conclusion that being poor is difficult but being poor and a widow is even more so. We had a great conversation with them and then shared lunch.

At one point we took a bunch of pictures and then they asked us if we would send pictures of our homes. I totally broke down. Thinking about sending them a picture of our enormous house with a car in front, green grass, flowers, color, all of it... the guilt was overwhelming. I was embarrassed thinking of how much we have and take for granted. I know it won’t last because that’s the American way, but I hope that I can try to keep it all in perspective. We’ve been to about eight homes at this point and all are one room, none have running water, and one had electricity that comes on at night.