An NGO Story

An NGO story (NGO stands for Non Governmental Agency) of making a difference in one community is included below. However, to protect everyone involved, names have been concealed or changed as appropriate in this NGO story.

Karte-X* is a semi-rural suburb in the city of Kabul. Karte-X is an area where a high number of internally displaced persons (IDP's)are living. They have returned from Pakistan and Iran and are trying to decide when to move again to their own "watan." (Watan means the land where their forefathers came from.)

Karte-X is a dry area, and the water in the wells is not suitable for human consumption. Sewage drainage is poor and many streets are dirty, full with holes and bumps.

Men try desperately to provide for their family members, but are coping with a high percentage of unemployment, high competition and mistrust caused by over 20 years of war. There is little trust or co-operation between people, a legacy both of the civil war and the tribal system.

Women hardly leave the house and don't know their neighbors. There is no freedom of expression and no permission to ask critical questions about religious and cultural customs.

However, as international NGO's came to live and work in Afghanistan, Afghans were increasingly exposed to different customs. They didn't want to deal with the "kafirs," as non-Muslims are called, but had to notice and acknowledge that those "kharejis" were doing a good job; they were honestly trying to relieve the suffering.

One NGO story proved it CAN be done right. This NGO came in with a program focusing on women. The local authorities were suspicious at first. "What if they influence our women so that they won't clean and cook anymore?" "What if they would rebel against the rule of the men in the house?"

The religious leaders and some local leaders beat a few of the women, and they stirred up the men to keep the women under their rule. Some papers were burned and women didn't have permission to attend any meetings held by this program.

But...a few women DID desire and have the courage to meet together. They managed to organize the workload in such a way that all desires of men were still fulfilled. Through the lessons learned from meeting together, they managed to develop their skills and to collect some capital to be utilized by each one in turn.

Slowly, women groups were formed and received training. Women gained confidence and started to visit each other even when they were not related, which was not done before. Women discovered each other and started to enjoy each others companionship.

Women began to realize that, if they joined hands and helped each other in the area, things could change. They changed their attitude towards new ideas and tried to look into bigger issues.

Children are enjoying some more attention, as older women took on the duty to supervise the younger kids so that they couldn't be bullied by the bigger boys. Women started to address the issue that their daughters couldn't attend school as the boys were bothering them.

The men started to help the women which improved the communication inside of the home. No longer is the woman seen as a "piece" of the household...there simply to cook, clean, and produce children.

She is now seen as a "member" of the household with power and access to capital. The men are no longer fearful because of "foreign ideas" but support the women as long as they fulfill their duties as wife and mother.

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