I sometimes receive emails from our Afghan partner that stun me in their reality and for a few minutes, I am able to block out the “nothingness” that is all around us and live in the moment of what truly matters.
For over four years our partner has very capably overseen the tailoring and now beautician training courses that we fund for women who desperately need a skill to provide income for their families in the safety of their homes.
International Literacy Day was September 8th. That same week we began literacy courses and self-help empowerment courses for the women in our training courses. They want to learn to read since most of them never had the opportunity to attend school. Our partner recently finished a three-week training course himself to be able to also train these women in organizing Self-Help Groups. This is a fantastic program that not only teaches them how to start their own businesses, but also gives training in forming self-help groups where they contribute their own money to a fund that will provide low interest loans to its members. This program was developed by the International Labor Organization and is one of the most valuable tools for helping women who live in extreme poverty and oppression.
A few days ago, I received word from some dear friends that a young Afghan man they had worked with on development projects was murdered to prevent any further progress of this kind for the Afghan people. I expressed concern to our partner for his and his family’s safety and questioned whether or not we should continue. I received this in reply…
“Don’t worry Ms. Linda. We will not die this soon because we have targets and goals in our life. We are building the minds of children and women and giving them hope to continue living. In this case, we have decided to continue to the last point…”
Everyone is fearful for 2014 and what will happen when international forces leave Afghanistan. My fear is that the Afghan people will be forgotten once again. The potential for the increased oppression and brutality toward women and girls is very real and beyond the scope of most of our imaginations.
A report in TOLOnews.com on 9/11/13 states that 95 percent of suicides in Afghanistan are committed by women. More than 2,500 Afghan women have taken their own lives in the past year alone. Countrywide investigations show that the vast majority of suicide cases in Afghanistan were amongst woman and young girls experiencing physical abuse. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Afghan women experience some of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world. According to UNAMA’s mid-year report, cases of violence against women were higher in 2013 than in 2012. In addition to violence, Public Health officials cited forced marriage, often between pre-adolescent girls and adult men, as well as widespread illiteracy as the main adversities facing female Afghans that contribute to the startling rates of suicide.
This news is very discouraging, and it would be easy to say it’s not worth it, but if those who risk the most for their people are not willing to give up then my momentary feelings of discouragement don’t measure up.
Bless all of you who have supported these training courses with your donations to Eternal Threads for sewing machines, lunch for the women and trainers’ salaries. I assure you it does not go unnoticed and it will never be forgotten. It will continue to be a light in the shadows, and even a small amount of light illumes the darkness.
After I visited the training courses on my last visit, I learned from our partner that the women could not believe that I would travel so far to see them and that we would care enough to give them these opportunities. Caring enough isn’t really that difficult nor does it cost us that much, but it changes lives in ways that we really can’t comprehend. I think it is easy for us to forget that there is a “last point” and I’m thankful for our partner’s reminder. He is the father of three sons so his sacrifice or risk is certainly no less and a lot more than ours. He was a translator for our military for two years and still honors the men and women that he saw sacrificing so much for his people and his country. It is what inspired him.
To make a difference in the lives of these women in Afghanistan, please visit our Life Changing Gifts page.