Example of Local Women Making a Difference in Afghanistan

This story is taken from another blogsite – Dry Mouth – Kabul Life. http://drymouth.tumblr.com/

It is an inspiring example of brave Afghan women taking on leadership roles, carving out a life for themselves and their families, and how occasionally they are lucky enough to be doing so with the support of their husbands.  Unusual?  Yes.  But definitely the story we should be striving to spread as we work to gain more support to create opportunity and education for amazing women like Lisa Nooristani.  If this doesn’t warm your heart and make you pull out your wallet to support more women like this, I don’t know what will.  Help Mountain to Mountain make a difference with women like this in remote areas of Afghanistan, so that women can continue to take on these roles of business and leadership and change the perception of women as smart, economically important, and deserving of respect.  It starts with education and microfinance – all of which is simpler than one would think.  To learn more about how to get involved – visit www.mountain2mountain.org

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During the week in which we had arranged an interview, Lisa Nooristani, CEO of Mutaharek Construction Company, received a death threat letter from the Taliban. It warned her not to continue in her successful construction building and absolutely not to appear on any media. Nonetheless I am publishing a photograph of her face and will shortly be producing a short video piece on her as part of a series on Afghan Businesswomen. Why? Because she insisted. I asked her several times if she would like to call off the interview and told her that any film I took would be broadcast not only all over the web and potentially picked up by major broadcasters like CNN and Sky, but also likely be picked up by Afghan media.

I met her at the gates of the US military run Provincial Reconstruction Team base in Nurestan. She had wanted to drive through the gates in her car, but as their scanner was down, the gate guards wouldn’t let her so she stomped up the steep hill to meet me smiling as she huffed and puffed. I later learned she had recently had a C-section to deliver her sixth child.

We had a pre-interview chat with a local interpreter providing the bridge that her sparse English and my even sparser Dari lacked. Open-faced with features that at once were younger and older than her 28 years, her voice was quiet and her eyes fixed on mine with a firm kindness.

“I have visited countries like Iran and Pakistan. I even went to America. I saw how these countries are, how they’re developed, how women are developed. And I was happy because I saw how we are all human. But then I was sad because I didn’t know why my country couldn’t be like that. Why is my country destroyed?”

“Those threat letters I received, they obviously upset me because these people are my people, they’re not Iranian or Pakistanian, they’re Afghan. They’re my brothers and I still respect them. But I’m not afraid of their threatening letters.”

She added, “If they kill me, then at least my children will be proud of me”.

She was married at 14 and told me how she didn’t stop crying all day. A couple of days later, sitting in her home, surrounded by her children, I looked at photos of her wedding day. Her young face caked in make-up, she was the only one not smiling.

Yet, her marriage has been successful. Her husband supports her completely and tells her he regards her as his ‘brother’. As un-romantic as this may sound to western ears, to an Afghan woman, this is a high compliment. Lisa laughs as she tells me how people talk about her husband, saying ‘he isn’t a man. He allows his wife to talk with foreigners. Look! She talks with them, she sits with them’. She smiles as she says, ‘he doesn’t listen to this kind of talk. He knows his wife is working for her homeland’.

I can’t emphasise enough how inspiring this sweet, kind and determined woman is. And how brave she is for talking to me. ‘I want to improve the condition of Nurestani women’, she says several times during the interview. She tells me how bad conditions are for these women: how they’re not allowed to even wash without asking their husband for a piece of soap; how they’re expected to keep on working even while they’re giving birth; how they deliver babies in the middle of the forest while gathering wood, cutting the umbilical cord with a blunt chopping knife.

“I just want support. Not only for me but for all women and especially Nurestani women.”

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