Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Meet Nadia Ghulam

nadia

Farmer, stock-breeder, wells builders, water seller, owner of a bicycle’s repair-shop, Mullah’s assistant and occasional religious police, even cook for one day for a group of Talibans. All this was Nadia Ghulam during the ten years she was a boy. The happy little girl with her long circling skirt she had been had left the day a bomb had hit her house in Kabul burning the 60 percent of her body. She was eight years old then, or at least that’s what she guesses. Nadia doesn’t remember very well those two years she spends her time half inside and half outside the hospital. “But I do remember Mujahideen bursting into the houses taking us in –and even into the hospital- and forcing us to leave, the pain of my wounds, the fact of being homeless and always starving and the voice of the bombs”.

While her mother is always with her two younger sisters, her elder brother and her father live with an aunt of theirs or they sort out their lives. When they have no house and Nadia is out of the hospital, they go to people’s houses, first families, then strangers, or sleep in shelters. “It is curious, and also a little sad”, she says between bites of melanzane (aubergines) alla parmigiana I then find out not to be only an Italian but also an Afghan typical dish (the latter use goose cheese instead of mozzarella and parmesan). “Here in Spain I read Anne Frank’s diary. She explained how it was I don’t know whose birthday, that they had made a cake and then had it…I kept thinking: unbelievable. Because during war there are no cakes”, she says. “She also explained they used to have vegetables and we never did”.

Nadia is around ten years old. Her father tells her and her mother that her teenage brother, Zelmai, was shot in the streets and is not working in Pakistan as they had been thinking for more than a year. “I then understood why my father had little by little stopped living. He was his pride”. Almost simultaneously Soraya, her doctor’s assistant, tells her that with the arrival of the Taliban women won’t be able to work. “I thought, so what am I going to do? If my father is ill, my brother isn’t here and my mother is like that, what are we going to eat? I have always been a person who relieves in her own things and who doesn’t like other people’s help. I say, if this person works and has his things, why can’t I have mine? I cannot be waiting for the others, you know?”

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Meet Suraya Pakzad

We shall prepare the path for you and your children

We shall fight now so that you shall survive

We shall die now so that you shall live.

Suraya Pakzad

suraya pakzad disegno

Suraya Pakzad grew up during the years of armed resistance against the Soviet-backed government in Kabul. Fearing for their teenage daughter’s future, her parents arranged for her to marry at the age of 14. At 15, she gave birth to her first child, a daughter. Her father and her husband were both educated men, and neither of them stopped her from studying. But she hid her marriage from classmates and teachers, since school rules prohibited wives from studying alongside unmarried students.

By the time she earned her literature degree at Kabul University in 1992, Suraya already had three daughters. In 1998 she began to help Afghan women in Kabul by setting up covert schools for girls under the oppressive rule of Taliban. She started in her home in defiance of them, who banned females going to school or being educated.  Pakzad was the first to register a woman NGO in the post-Taliban era and quickly got the attention of international donors for her work. “Then I never looked back and was able to build a core team of not highly qualified but dedicated people that helped me a lot to support vulnerable women and families”.

In 2004, the Board of Directors of Voice of Women Organization (VWO), the non-governmental, non-political and non-profit organization she created, realized that the need for assistance to the women of the Western Region of Afghanistan was largely unfilled and the Head Office of the organization was shifted to the Western city of Herat.

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