Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tell Congress to protect women and girls in Afghanistan


United Nations
Foundation - Tell Congress to support children's health

Dear friend,

Close up of Afghan girl at chalkboard

Urge your senator to co-sponsor The Afghan Women Empowerment Act.

Take Action

Young women and girls account for one-eighth of the world's population. And even though many are the primary caregivers and breadwinners in their household — most still do not enjoy even basic human rights.

This situation is especially acute in Afghanistan, where despite efforts by the U.S. government, the United Nations, and others to improve the lives of women and girls, many still lack access to basic health care and schools. Many face violence and intimidation, daily. And Afghanistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.

You can ensure these basic rights for the women of Afghanistan by asking your senator to support The Afghan Women Empowerment Act introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

If passed, The Afghan Women Empowerment Act will strengthen and empower women and girls in Afghanistan by providing critical resources to organizations that promote adult literacy education, technical and vocational training and health care services. It also provides assistance to especially vulnerable populations, including widows and orphans.

Ask your senator to support The Afghan Women Empowerment Act now.

This bill is critical as the maternal death rate for Afghan women is tragically high — with one mother dying for every 56 births — because it provides equipment, medical supplies and other assistance to health care facilities to reduce maternal and infant mortality.

The bill also funds programs to protect women and girls against sexual and physical abuse, abduction, trafficking, exploitation, and includes emergency shelters for women and girls who face danger from violence.

We urge you to support Sen. Boxer's work to empower and protect women in Afghanistan. It is time for serious action, now.

Thank you for taking action for the women of Afghanistan.


Ben Jealous
Kathy Calvin
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
United Nations Foundation

Take Action


Monday, June 22, 2009

Fwd: KIVA group members on LinkedIn

You might be interested in Kiva - a funding organization for Microfinance operations all over the world - including as of last week, the USA. Kiva provides funding for small ergo "micro" loans to startup businesses. In Afghanistan their funds are utilized by an organization managed by Oxfam. Visit for more information. Also, check out LinkedIn - another social network - this one used by business professionals.

Linkedin GroupsJune 22, 2009

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Women's Conference | June 10, 2009

"Some days you just wake up with a feeling. There’s no explaining it, you just know that this day will be different. Not sure how, but different. In March of 2008, I had one of those days...."

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

What I want to say about my father… by a brave young Afghan woman

Happy Father's Day!

This is an example of the writing of the Afghan women and their interaction with the instructors of the Afghan Women's Writing Project. For more of their writing visit:

Friends of Afghanistan is supporting this project by providing computers and a women's only internet cafe at the SOLA Women's Dormitory. Visit
If you would like to make a contribution toward the computers needed for this project.

To all you dads out there, ask yourself - what if your daughter were born in Afghanistan? What would you want to do for her?

If only this world had more fathers like Meena's dad!

I look forward to meeting Meena at Lake Norman NC next weekend. She leaves Kabul with 32 war injured children being flown to Charlotte NC for medical treatment this summer. I plan to encourage this young woman in her courageous work. She is the first recipient of a scholarship arranged by Ted Achilles and the good people who support SOLA - She will be studying in the US beginning a 4 year college program in NY.

Again, may you all take such pride in your father as that shown by this young woman. May all you dads deserve such praise!
Terry Dougherty

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Janis Newman
Date: Sun, Jun 21, 2009 at 1:29 PM
Subject: {Writing 101} Some writing from Meena
To: AWWP Writing 101

Hello writers,

On Father's Day here in America, I am sending out a beautiful essay written by Meena about her father. My comments are at the end.

What I want to say about my father…

What I want to say about my father is that he is my comfort in times of pain, my courage in times of defeat and my hope in times of despair. Fathers are those precious gifts of God, whose finger we hold and learn how to walk. Someone whose arms give us a sense of security and whose smiles give us hope.
In a country where girls are forced into marriages, denied education and are surrounded by harsh religious and cultural taboos, I have always found my father standing not only behind me but also beside me.

When a girl entrance the world of ladyship, this brings along sexual harassment, social barriers, home imprisonment, denial of education and many other denials to basic human rights for many of my Afghan sisters. Most certainly I was no exception but fortunate enough to have my father in my fight against the them.

After retuning from the United States, I took a part time job with a British journalist working on a documentary as well as a news piece about the American elections. The experience taught me on how hard it is for an Afghan woman to go out and work. During an interview in Khair Khana being surrounded by a crowd of men with the two journalist and i in the middle. The crowd started paying me cheeky comments for i as an Afghan women, working out doors with foreign journalists. I looked around and it was something I was always afraid of. Being surrounded by men and not being able to defeat my self. I listened to all the comments and continued translating the interview contents for the journalist.

That night when I went home, I directly went to the big room in the right corner of the hall, where my father was watching the News. After saying Salaam I sat beside him. He looked at me saying "What is wrong child?" I had no words to express myself. I was angry but what for? For being a girl, for being an Afghan girl, for being insulted or for what. Turning my face to my father I started saying " Padar Jaan, It was a horrible day today. The men insulted us as much as they could possibly do. I hated it so much"

My father looked my in the eye saying "In Afghanistan, It is the world of men and it takes strong women to make it the equal world of men and women". He said nothing more and acted as nothing had happened. All of a sudden I no longer had any anger inside but it was replaced by courage and passion longing for change. I continued my job, paying minimum attention to what people said or thought.

That is who my father is and that is his importance in my life. They say there is a woman behind every successful man; I would say there is also a man behind every successful woman. For me that man is my father

My comments: I love everything about this essay! It is beautifully written! I love the way Meena describes her father as always standing beside her. I love how she describes what her father means to her in the first line. I especially love the scene Meena gives us of coming to her father after the men have insulted her. This is an excellent scene. One very good thing Meena does in it is let us know exactly how she is feeling. The idea that she is angry, but for what, is very real, and very powerful. Although nothing like this has ever happened to me, Meena makes me understand exactly how it would feel. I also love the dialogue that Meena uses here. Her father's quote about Afghanistan being a world of men and how it will take strong women to change it is particularly powerful and good. This line makes us understand completely who Meena's father is, and why she loves him.

Because it is Father's Day, I am going to send this essay out to many of my friends here in America. It's a lovely and meaningful tribute to all fathers. Thank you for writing it.



Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Trust in Education's newest initiative


        Monday I started my morning reading an email from Qudsia which included photos of the first pay day for street children sponsored by TIE supporters. They made my day!  I thought they might brighten yours.

       Pictured below are a few of the children (we are sponsoring 40). Notice that the money ($20) is being paid to the children, not their guardians. Even if they don't hold the funds beyond the gate, they will experience the sense of havin
g earned it. So far there are no drop outs.

AlinaFarida aschiana girl

aschiana boy Haji Gul         Aschiana girl Latifa

        Qudsia (pictured below) has been hired by TIE to serve as an intermediary between sponsors, sponsored children, their families, Aschiana and TIE.  We will lighten Aschiana's reporting burden, monitor progress and assist when and however we can. We've also offered to provide micro-credit loans to families with sponsored children. Aschiana has experience in funding small businesses and will assist us in finding credit worthy families and enterprises. The search has begun.

aschiana kids/Qudsia

        Finally, if you have 3 minutes and 59 seconds for another uplifting experience, click here. This bit of culture was provided by my "cuz", Ralph, in Boise, Idaho (culture in Boise?).
       I'll see if they can share this with children in Afghanistan. That day will come, by the way. I am working with Carol Ruth Silver and the One Laptop Per Child organization in Kabul on a pilot project that would provide 50 laptops to some of our classes. Another Inshallah project in an Inshallah world.

Thank You!


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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Cultivating Afghanistan: Indiana farmer/soldiers share their expertise

Indiana University
IU News Room

Cultivating Afghanistan: Indiana farmer/soldiers share their expertise

An Indiana National Guard team that is training Afghans in effective farming techniques prepared for its tour of duty with instruction in the language and culture of Afghanistan at Indiana University.

Stories about the Indiana 1-19th Agribusiness Development Team are being shared with home-state audiences, thanks to IU public radio station WFIU. A writer who is embedded with the team is producing features for a WFIU series titled "Cultivating Afghanistan."

Cultivating Afghanistan
Photo courtesy of ADT/WFIU
First Lt. Melissa Gutzweiler of the Indiana 1-19th Agribusiness Development Team, on the flight from Bagram Air Field to Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost province

The 64-person team, which deployed to Afghanistan's Khost Province about three months ago, includes agricultural experts and Indiana National Guard soldiers whose job it is to protect them. Indiana is one of seven states sending agribusiness development teams to Afghanistan.

"Agriculture sustains about 60 to 70 percent of the population of the country, so we won't have true security until the economic state is better repaired," Army Maj. Shawn Gardner, operations and training officer for the 1-19th, said in a story posted on the National Guard Bureau Web site.

The guardsmen and women, including 16 Indiana National Guard members who are experts in livestock and crop farming, forestry and veterinary medicine, are working with and advising Afghan farmers in an effort to improve productivity and efficiency and provide alternatives to growing poppies for the opium trade.

After a brief course at Purdue University in issues of Afghan agriculture, the agriculture experts on the Indiana team underwent a 15-day intensive training regimen last December at IU Bloomington, learning the rudiments of the Pashto language spoken in Khost and basic cultural competencies.

The training was provided by IU's Center for Languages of the Central Asian Region (CeLCAR), a federal Title VI Foreign Language Resource Center dedicated to promoting the teaching and learning of the languages and cultures of the key strategic region.

Indiana National Guard personnel who are supporting the agricultural experts had five days of training. CeLCAR will provide training for a second group of Indiana Agribusiness Development Team in August.

"They were wonderful," said Dave Baer, assistant director of CeLCAR. "The ones from Indiana, especially, were responsive and really valued the language and cultural training."

While a majority of Afghanistan's population depends on agriculture for its livelihood, practices are usually at a subsistence level. Only 12 percent of the country's land is arable, and just 6 percent is being used for farming. The Afghan economy has been battered by more than two decades of war.

The Indiana Agribusiness Development Team may have the tools and knowledge to help, but to be successful, its members need to communicate with Afghans in a way that is effective and culturally sensitive. The CeLCAR training provided basics of the Pashto alphabet, greetings, common sentences and the most important vocabulary words. It also got the team up to speed on issues that can trip up interactions between Westerners and Afghan Muslims, including gestures and gender issues.

"The biggest issue for success over there is whether the U.S. personnel can think of the Afghans as peers and not as second-class citizens. That's a huge issue," said Baer, who credited Col. Brian Copes, the 1-19th commander, with setting a positive example for respecting the Afghan people.

Meanwhile, reports on the team are being reported and produced for WFIU by Doug Wissing, a Bloomington-based freelance journalist who was accepted to live and work as an embedded reporter with the Indiana 1-19th. Wissing traveled to Afghanistan just over a week ago. So far, he has filed three stories: on the family team member Bob Cline, a Heltonville, Ind., cattle farmer; his own training and orientation at CeLCAR; and the arduous trip to Khost province near the Pakistan border.

WFIU Station Manager Christina Kuzmych said Wissing will produce about 15 stories during his current stay in Afghanistan, and additional stories in a second embedded tour with the 1-19th later this year. The stories can be heard online at

Sponsors of the "Cultivating Afghanistan" story project, in addition to CeLCAR, include IU's Office of the Vice President for International Affairs and the Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center.

More about the Center for Languages of the Central Asian Region can be seen at

530 E. Kirkwood Ave.
Suite 201
Bloomington, IN

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

FW: Packing Party Rocks

packer 3.09

       Sunday's packing party was a huge success! Somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 - 100 people came and filled over 400 boxes (5 to six tons), with blankets, jackets, sweaters, school supplies, shoes, sweatshirts, household goods, and the most important gift for children, toys. Everyone was working so hard and moving so fast it was impossible to count how many came.

girl boxes

       Jackie Fitzpatrick delivered 100 boxes of donations from Holy Cross Elementary school, located in Santa Cruz. Sarah Casey, owner of the Handlebar toy store in Lafayette, brought a full van load of donations. She volunteered to designate her store as a drop off point, thereby lightening the burden on our porch.

       Abraham Mendoza, a news photographer from Channel 7, showed up unexpectedly, which resulted in two stories being broadcast that evening. The grass in grass roots continues to grow. Thank you Channel 7.  

       The "top gun" award goes to Deborah Hungerford, who wielded the fastest and most accurate tape gun. I have taped a few thousand boxes in my lifetime. I wouldn't dare try to keep up with Deborah, without a respirator and doctor standing by. I should have known it would be won by a woman. It's been downhill ever since women acquired the right to vote in 1920.

boxes tabledoor boxes

The Infamous Porch

     budd porch 

A thing of beauty in the eye of some beholders

        Due to an equipment failure and miscommunication, Randy and I loaded what was in our garage and on our porch into a 24ft truck, for three hours Friday night. We then unloaded the truck at midnight with the assistance of Zachary and Adib Sahar, Brad Zenoni, and Tim Johansen. They came to the rescue when called at 10:30 pm.
       Several on the way out asked, "when is the next packing party?" Not until I and a few of the core group can walk erect again. The house reeks of Ben Gay.

       This event proved once again that people will make the time. It's very reassuring! Thank you!



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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

An Opportunity to Help President Obama Help the Peace Corps

Date: Mon, Jun 1, 2009 at 10:15 PM
Subject: An Opportunity to Help President Obama Help the Peace Corps

Dear Terrence,

On June 18th, Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D, NY) and her sub-committee will mark-up the Foreign Operations Appropriation Bill for FY 2010.

This is a critical opportunity to help the Peace Corps acquire the resources needed to be a better and bolder 21st century organization.

In President Obama's FY 2010 budget, he asked for $374 million for the Peace Corps, far below the level required to meet his campaign pledge of doubling the Peace Corps by the time of the 50th Anniversary.

Since historically the Congress appropriates less money than the President requests, we have a huge challenge before us.

By working together, two weeks ago we bucked this trend and the House Foreign Relations Committee's bill authorized $450 million for the Peace Corps in FY 2010.

We now need your help in asking Congresswoman Lowey and her subcommittee to do the same.

Visit our blog for information on how to contact her and her subcommittee. Urge them to provide $450 million so that we can help the President achieve his often-stated Peace Corps goal. On our blog you'll also find a link to a compelling open letter to Congresswoman Lowey from Nepal RPCV Larry Leamer.

And while you are online, sign up for our new social networking website, If you become the 12,000th member, we will profile you and your Peace Corps connection in our next e-newsletter.

With thanks for your ongoing interest in the Peace Corps,

Kevin F. F. Quigley
Thailand, 1976-79
President, National Peace Corps Association

Monday, June 01, 2009

News from The Afghan Women's Writing Project

Issue No. 1    June 2009

The Afghan Women's Writing Project was begun as a way to allow the voices of Afghan women -- too often silenced -- to enter the world. During my two visits to Afghanistan, I've been inspired by the grace, courage and determination of many women I've met: child brides, women imprisoned for fleeing abusive husbands, war widows surviving against numerous odds. As the Taliban regains power, particularly in the south of the country, these women's freedoms are again threatened. I hope you will take a moment to read these compelling blog entries, only a few of which are below. Please join our mailing list and spread the world. If you are a creative writing teacher and would like to volunteer to teach online in a three-week block, please be in touch.

This project would not be possible without the outstanding American women authors and teachers who generously donate their time to mentor women writing in Afghanistan. Additionally, the tireless contributions of webmaster extraordinaire Jeff Lyons and web designers Terry Dougherty and Rose Daniels have been crucial. Our inspiring partners are SOLA in Afghanistan and the Peter M. Goodrich Memorial Foundation based in Vermont; please visit their websites. And be in touch with any questions.

Thank you.
Masha Hamilton
One of My Worst Memories

We start running away too. Then I saw the Taliban's car. Their car was moving slowly. Two of them jumped out and began beating a girl. She was around my age. They were beating her because she didn't have a burqa. I had heard of, but had not seen, such as event before. I started crying. I was not able to run. My mother hid me in her burqa. She was afraid too.

By Zarlasht

Click here to read the full story.
A Memory From the Pages of Life

Since Pakistan had closed its borders, we, like many others, went through the mountains and through the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas). While climbing the mountains, I paused and looked down. A lot of women, men and children were climbing also, and some had donkeys and other animals with them. There were also people smuggling cars illegally to Pakistan. No matter what, business never stops -- that is true, is it not?

By Meena

Click here to read the full story.
Women Are Moving Forward in Farah

"The opportunity did not exist for me and my sister to go to school and become educated," says Malali, a member of a new women's organization founded in conservative Farah Province. "We married when we were very young. We have no information about anything. Our first workshop was about elections."

By Seeta

Click here to read the full story.
A Word From Our Teachers

Caroline Leavitt is the author of eight acclaimed novels. Her ninth, Breathe, is forthcoming in 2010. In 2004, she was named one of the UCLA Writing Program's Outstanding Instructors of the year.

I tend to have at least 16 projects going at once, and almost no free time, but when Masha mentioned she was starting a program about teaching writing to Afghan women, how could I not want to do this? The women, she explained, sometimes had to have male relatives take their work to the Internet cafes. They sometimes might not want their names mentioned or details kept private. I kept wondering: what could I possibly teach these women?

When I first saw the topics they were writing about-being married at 14, deciding not to marry but to continue to teach, I began to realize that my assignments (simple descriptions, character studies) had to be much more focused.  It astonished me when women apologized for their grammar or their writing. (Yes, the grammar needed work, but these women would go over and over it until they got it right. They asked a million questions.)  One woman wrote me privately to ask that I not post her work because she was afraid the others might laugh at her work.  The women all apologized for being late with assignments. Dumbfounded, I assured all of them that there was nothing to apologize for, that I felt it was an act of bravery every time they wrote a single word, and it was my honor to teach them.

Recently, I posted to one of the women, "I wish we could all meet at a café for coffee and pie." I meant it. The stories these women have to tell are remarkable, but even more remarkable, are the women themselves.

Kerry Cohen  is the author of a young adult novel who received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Oregon and an MA in counseling psychology from Pacific University.

It's been too easy to feel disconnected from what's happening in the Middle East, and this is especially true regarding women. Our lives are so different here, and of course news and literature from Americans only gets to certain truths, not at all the whole truths, and pretty much never the truths that come straight from Afghan women. This is why I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of this project.

What I've found thus far is that these women are simply trying to live their lives - just like anywhere else - but the difference is that many have been witness to violence and suppression we can't imagine here in America. I'm so proud of these amazing women for sharing their sometimes shocking, sometimes ordinary stories.

Contact AWWP:

For more information on the Afghan Women's Writing Project please contact:
The Afghan Women's Writing Project
Masha Hamilton, Project Founder
686 Sterling Place Brooklyn, New York 11216
Phone: 917.821.6119 / Email:

Masha's Website/Blog:
AWWP Blog:


Online Donations for Afghan Women Writers:

Many of our students and women writers, especially outside of Kabul, cannot get to an Internet cafe due to security considerations. A laptop at home and a jump drive would allow them to write their pieces, and then ask a male relative to send the work at an Internet cafe. A $20 donation will buy a flash drive and $500 in donations will buy a laptop for our women writers. No contribution is too small. Thank you for considering it.

Your credit card donation will be handled by Friends of Afghanistan's secure Paypal payment. Or you can mail a check made out to Friends of Afghanistan:

Terry Dougherty , 15021 Prairie Park Cv, Hoagland, IN 46745.
Write SOLA or Afghan Women Writers on the check.

We will send your tax deductible donation to the Peter M. Goodrich Foundation for the purpose you indicate.

To stay informed about the latest news, events, and other developments with the Afghan Women's Writing Project, please CLICK below and join our mailing list.  We appreciate your support.
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In This Issue
One of My Worst Memories
A Memory From the Pages of Life
Women Are Moving Forward in Farah
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