December 15, 2011


 Afghan Women want Peace but not at the cost of loosing all they have gained in the last 10 years.  Yes, they believe in Peace but their rights are non-negotiable. During this Transition Process, Afghan Women want to emphasise security issues for the military and police, but, primarily for civil society. 

                                        Burkah Sellers                                                      Kabul, Afghanisgtan       2005                              As Executive Director of a non-profit my trip to Afghanistan in 2005 was to coordinate the Ministry of Education's mandate to locate and select schools in the Waras region,  an area with the greatest need. I had no idea what to expect only that Waras was a day's drive south west from Kabul in the opposite direction from the historical Bamiyan city district, where there is a proliferation of NGO's giving aid. Little did I know that this would turn into six days and the majority of that time spent on horseback traversing a dozen shale covered passes of the Surb Koh the mountains that surrounds these villages.

The Second International Conference on Afghanistan held in Bonn, Germany last week, marked 10 years from the first conference, in 2001, when Hamid Karzai was chosen the leader of an Afghan Interim Authority. In the 10 years that have transpired, Afghanistan women have worked diligently to enact changes for the better - including a law giving them protection against violence. “But then, as today, the law is rarely enforced with 80% of women and children experiencing some type of violence on a daily basis, occurring in both the cities and the rural areas.”

The Afghan women delegates spoke openly about their lack of protection, at the press conference hosted by CARE International the day following the Bonn Conference. The women delegates were not invited to participate directly and this CARE press conference gave them the international platform to emphasis the need to be on equal terms with the men of Afghanistan.  “Since women make up 51% of the Afghan population, they stressed their right to be actively involved in the discussions, decisions and negotiations during the Transition Process.”

                                Mother and child                                                                                                             Worzang,     Afghanistan 2005                             The women of the villages have special needs, and spoke to me privately in hushed tones. There are few doctors in the area, and no one was specializing in women’s health issues. There is no midwife system in Afghanistan and since most women are shy and modest by nature they often give birth alone. This is one reason that Afghanistan has the worlds highest maternal mortality rates, at 1600 for every 100,000 births. The infant mortality rate has similar statistics, at 166 per 1,000 live births.  One in four children die before they reach the age of five.

There are striking similarities between the Afghan women, as they look to secure their future, and their American sisters, who surprisingly are facing a backlash to their own rights. The recent Initiative 26; “a Mississippi state constitutional personhood amendment that would have given full rights to fertilized eggs, would have banned emergency contraception, birth control pills, and IUDs as well as all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman or girl. The Personhood Amendment would have even gone so far as to eliminate medical choices for women, including some cancer treatments, in vitro fertilization, and could allow the state to investigate and even prosecute a woman for a miscarriage.”
The Personhood Amendment aims to reverse the gains made by Roe vs Wade. “While women’s rights supporters successfully defeated the dangerous Initiative 26. Anti-abortion and anti-birth control extremists have indicated that they intend to put a similar measure on six state ballots in 2012”.  As of December 14 , 2011, “Personhood USA Petitions claims that GOP Candidates Lead on Personhood; Bachmann, Santorum, Gingrich Sign First-of-its-kind Personhood Pledge”

This past October, women in Topeka, Kansas, where shocked when the district attorney’s office announced that they would stop investigating domestic abuse cases. Prosecutor’s say they're overwhelmed with so many felonies, and the need to incur budget cuts, that they can't afford to pursue these and other misdemeanor cases. This move by the district attorney’s office has outraged civil rights advocates and who say, “Austerity has gone to far”

Carrying greens for evening meal              Jark, Afghanistan, 2005
The peaceful landscape is an oasis of calm with the emerald fields of grain, apricots and raisins contrasting with the soft brown mountain backdrop. Village life is simple but for the women the work is hard; women worked the sparsely fertile land, threshed the wheat, tended to the cattle, carried crops back to the home and cooked the meals.

These examples crystallize the regressive policies that threaten the essential core rights of the individual - particularly women and children. I have observed, as I travel across the many Silk Road countries for my Peace Caravan project, that this need for an “inclusive voice” remains an ongoing global struggle for women. In this 21 Century, I believe that the time is eminent.  Raise the rights of women and with an equal determination in the future of their lives; their families, village and nations prosper.  For without women, there is no country.

With respect, and to honor the courage of the women delegates at Bonn, The Afghan Women’s Network-AWN, and all those who have focused their energies over the past two years to give Afghan women a voice. I present:                                                                                                                                                                             

FACES of the WOMEN of AFGHANISTAN – photographs from my journey through Afghanistan in 2005.

Women Begging outside of Mosque      Herat, Afghanistan 2005 

Young Girl in White                                        Warzang, Afghanistan 2005

                                                           Washing up                                                                       Jark, Afghanistan, 2005                                                                            Washing up, cleaning clothes and showers all take place in a stone room off the main house. The water flows from a hollow bamboo stick protruding from the rock wall falling directly into a trough cut through the stone floor. Clothes are rubbed clean against the floor, scrubbed till the soap runs clear then left to float in the water filled trough to rinse. It is an amazing piece of engineering and even though the water was ice cold, exacerbated by the stone floor, it was a luxury and a refreshing pleasure.

December 5, 2011

TRI Tashkent Conference -Tashkent, Uzbekestan

Marla Mossman seen on the monitor during her presentation at the Tashkent Conference
I was delighted to be invited to give a virtual presentation at the The Region Initiative (TRI) REGIONAL TOURISM PARTNERSHIP AMONG SOUTH ASIA, CENTRAL ASIA AND EASTERN EUROPE CONFERENCE in Tashkent, Uzbekistan - November 22, 2011.

The conference was organized by TRI Honorary President, Mr. Agha Iqrar Haroon, and attended by partners from Central and South Asia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Pakistan - all tourism experts and professionals in tourism NGOs and practitioners.

The audience had the opportunity to view the Peace Caravan: Journey Along the Silk Road video before I participated in an interactive discussion, answering questions via Skype. I stressed the view that Central Asia, which has wonderful cultural and environmental opportunities in eco-tourism, handicrafts, and traditional arts needs to impart a new global awareness campaign. I and my Peace Caravan Project’s mission is to be a positive role in telling the world how peaceful the people and beautiful the landscapes are in Central Asia and all along the Silk Road.

I was especially moved by the Conferences recognition that "tourism is an effective tool for peace and should be considered a harmony generator.  It was decided that all countries will work together for the revival of the historic and traditional route of the Great Silk Road."

For more information on TRI and the Tashkent Conference

Mt. Ararat

Marla Mossman

My photo
One woman traveling alone, in search of her religious and cultural heritage.