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© Luke Powell 2003

Kabul Journal

Diana N. Rowan Founder & Chair Afghan Women Leaders CONNECT A Special Program of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, New York

© Luke Powell 2003 FOREWORD (January 2004) It is just over a year since our first US Afghan Women's Council State Department journey to Kabul (January 2003) --a year of tumult and accomplishment by the Afghan people: the new Constitution has just been voted in, with women's equal rights under the law being specified along with those of men. Two women per province have been guaranteed seats in Parliament. Big milestones toward Afghanistan's progress toward peace and democracy. It is just about two years since I founded Afghan Women Leaders CONNECT, in 2002, as a Special Program of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, New York. The initiative supports Afghan women NGO leaders whose work in education, health services and job-skills training is BOTH effective and accountable. And in this past year of constitutional drafting and debate CONNECT expanded into the policy area, supporting critical constitution building and human rights work in Afghanistan. CONNECT supported the historic Kandahar women's constitutional rights conference (September 2003), where the Afghan Women's Bill of Rights was drafted, and later presented personally to President Karzai. Afghan women's strong advocacy work for their rights gained international attention, and is credited with a significant impact on the final successful vote. The photographs which follow chronicle some of the courageous Afghan women we have met in the course of our work--and some of the potent experiences our delegation shared in our "Kabul Journey" of January 2003, the U.S. Afghan Women's Council led by Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, Dr. Paula Dobriansky.

KABUL JOURNAL Notes from the U.S. Afghan Women's Council Delegation Visit, January 2003 Diana N. Rowan, Founder & Chair Afghan Women Leaders CONNECT A special program of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, New York

Blue Sky... Too much of it visible through bombed-out buildings. Often we saw children playing on upper floors and laundry hung across the empty spaces: virtually every building with a floor and a few walls intact was inhabited.

Blue Burqas: Afghan women are not about to give up the relative safety of the burqa when there is yet no real security. Afghan women remind us in the West--do not focus on the burqa. Focus on education and health and on skills training for women; focus on economic empowerment for them, for a better future and a more stable civil society... And focus on getting women's rights clauses into the new constitution (by June 2003).

But this is the reality for thousands... Afghan refuges living in a bombed-out high school building in Kabul. No heat. No electricity. No running water or plumbing. Bomb craters in the walls. And yet, the Afghan spirit is clear in these children's exuberant faces!

Habiba Sarabai, capable and gracious Minister for Women's Affairs and cochair of the US Afghan Women's Council

Left, Sakena Yacoobi, Founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning which provides health services, library and job skills programs and teacher training to thousands of Afghan women.* Middle, Dr. Sima Samar, Commissioner of Human Rights and Founder of Shuhada, an NGO building hospitals, schools and women's centers as well as human rights programs.* Right, Dr. Suhaila Siddiqui, famous surgeon who operated the Kabul hospital even under the Taliban! *Afghan Women Leaders CONNECT grantees

Successful London businesswoman Seema Ghani (center) returned to live permanently in her homeland, to help rebuild its shattered infrastructure and its civil society. She spoke eloquently at the Council meeting of the importance of entrepreneurial training and micro credit plans for Afghan women. She founded an NGO orphanage, Khorasan House, and personally adopted 16 Afghan orphans.

Seema Ghani with one of her 16 adopted Afghan orphans, all of whom call her "mother". She also created a traditional Afghan style guest house and restaurant, KarwanSara, in Kabul. Under Secretary of State Dobrianksy was so impressed with Seema's business skill and dedication to her country that she spoke of Seema's accomplishments to President Hamid Karzai: Afghan citizens returning from the diaspora with education, skill and the will to rebuild are a great hope for the country's future.

NEWS FLASH ­ OCTOBER 2003 SEEMA GHANI APPOINTED DIRECTOR OF THE BUDGET FOR AFGHANISTAN At the Fortune 500 Most Powerful Women Summit in Arizona, organized and moderated by USAWC/Kabul delegate Pattie Sellers, I was privileged to be at Seema's side when she announced to the entire assembly her good news. Seema received resounding applause from several hundred conference members.

ANOTHER UPDATE January 2004 held an historic milestone for Afghanistan and its progress toward peace and democracy: the successful ratification of the new Afghan constitution with women's rights and responsibilities under the law clearly delineated as equal to men's. Women were also granted two seats in parliament for every province, a major step forward.

Many CONNECT grantees were deeply involved in the advocacy struggle to achieve that victory. But an even more monumental task lies ahead! Judicial reform and the implementation of the constitution. In 2004, Afghan Women Leaders CONNECT gave a leadership grant to the Afghan Women Judges Association, through the US Afghan Women's Council, and in collaboration with the International Women Judges' Association. This public/private partnership supports the capable and determined Afghan women in the legal profession who are working on these critical issues.

Members of Afghan Women Lawyers & Judges Association - Kabul 2003

Kabul ­ January 2003... The US Afghan Women's Council met with President Karzai and presented him with a gift of an Americanmade clock, engraved.

USAWC co-chair, Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky, introducing the delegation to President Karzai. We discussed the need to restore Afghan women to full participation in their society, and had a few light moments, on New York life... (photos above by delegation photographer)

A young spark-- The hope of Afghanistan's future!

All photos © Diana N. Rowan unless otherwise noted.


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