a first hand account by WAR child’s project manager
Linked on these blogs with War Child Canada. – Published on War Child Canada, not dated.
After 24 hours of travel to Afghanistan, a dizzying ride from the airport quickly shook us awake. At points I can’t tell which side of the road people drive on – it’s a fender free-for-all – find a space and gun it! Drivers don’t yield for anyone, and that includes oncoming traffic. There was none of the orchestrated madness you see in Delhi.
Kabul has all the images you expect – robin egg blue burqas, bullet-ridden buildings, busy streets full of police, army, roadblocks and security check points. It’s a dusty, tan-coloured city with crumbling clay and brick buildings. Any building of even the slightest importance is barricaded by tall concrete walls, barbed wire, armed guards and sandbags to protect from blasts. The UN guesthouses are practically fortresses.
We had quite the tour of the city; ‘on your left is the Safi Landmark, recently assaulted by a suicide attack, down this street was the Noor guesthouse flattened by a car bomb, and right here where we are driving, yes here on this piece of concrete, a suicide bomber blew himself up’. And so security is tight. No leaving the compound unless by car – and certainly no strolls in the city. There are police trucks and officers at each end of our street, and security guards in front of most buildings.
As we drove through the city towards WCC’s Afghan Women’s Community Support Project site, we could see the mountains full of precariously built homes in which many of the women we support live. There is no running water and they have to haul buckets of water up the steep hill. The harsh winters weigh heavily on them. Our project office is basic and clean. The women receive basic literacy and numeracy training on the ground floor and upstairs their children receive basic education and nutrition. I had a long discussion with a group of women who have been in our program for just three months so far. It was an emotional session. The mere concept of leaving their houses is still very new to these women. Most of these women have been regularly abused by their husbands and other male members of their households. The dire economic situation of their husbands (many are sick, disabled or addicted to drugs and so unable to work) has created massive troubles for the women and children. One participant told me her story “My husband died in a car accident. Now I live with his father who will not let me remarry. He hits me and my children every day, he hates us and tells me I bring shame on him. I come to these classes but he does not know. He is not at home when I go to the classes. I am so scared he will find out but I want to make my life better”. I also met with the women who have already completed a year of educational and vocational training and are now running businesses with loans they received through the AWCSP. They are able to generate their own income and can now send their children to school instead of into the streets to sell plastic bags or beg. One girl I talked to has found a job as a trainer. She is now teaching other disadvantaged women the tailoring skills she learned through the AWCSP. It’s amazing to see the difference between the women who have just started the program and those who have been in it for over a year. The new women are scared and timid. They cried as I asked them about their lives and their hopes for the program. The women I met who have finished the first year of training are confident and chatty. So chatty that the poor translator was struggling to keep up. They were laughing and joking and full of confidence that their lives will keep getting better. (full text).