Sunday, November 28, 2010

Activist for Afghan Women Founds Community College in Kabul

Sadiqa Basiri
Activist for Afghan Women founds Community College in Kabul

I had the pleasure of meeting Sadiqa Basiri on November 17 when she spoke at Columbia College / Museum of Contemporary Photography about the situation of women in Afghanistan, and what she has been doing to effect change.

Sadiqa is a young woman, raised as a refugee in Pakistan for many years before returning to her native land, where she has founded six girls schools and opened the first Afghan community college for women. She spoke of how important it is for women to be educated in Afghanistan, and how rare it is. Her own schooling was primarily rote memorization and did not involve critical thinking. Despite that, she brilliantly decided to transcribe every mention of women's rights written in the Koran and distributed them at every town in the countryside that she went to. "So it was not Sadiqa's opinion, but the Koran"

She spoke with sadness about the Taliban warlords, "our angry brothers" and how President Karzai is supporting them. She worried that US withdrawl will mean more repression for women. The recently passed Shia Law that forbids women from wroking outside the home or freeling moving, and condones marital rape. She talked about the National Stabilization and Reformation Act, which gives amnesty to all war criminals from the last 20 years, condoning the violence, intolerance and brutality.

Despite all this, Sadiqa remained optimistic, committed, firm and resolute. She advised contacting ambassadors to take women issues seriously and to hold Karzai accountable to women. She talked about what her school, the Oruj Learning Center, needs -- curriculum development, visiting professors, funding to rent space ($50,000/yr). Her first year she had 70 students, the second year -- 140. It is unusual for women to be able to attend college -- of 100,000 applications for higher education, only 23,000 are accepted, and o fthem only 2% are women.

Donate to Sadiqa's school , the Oruj Learning Project, if you can.

Read more about her here.

Another interesting speaker was Anna Badkhen, a journalist and author of Waiting for the Taliban and Peace meals: Candy-wrapped Kalashnikovs and other War Stories.