The world seems complex, chaotic, and dangerous in this moment. And yet, over the past few decades we have made greater progress in alleviating poverty and suffering than during any other time in the history of the world.
The paradox --
Over the last 25 years, more than a billion people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty, and the global poverty rate is now lower than it has ever been in recorded history. This is one of the greatest human achievements of our time. -World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim
Globally, the forcibly displaced population increased in 2017 by 2.9 million. By the end of the year, 68.5 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, or generalized violence. As a result, the world’s forcibly displaced population remained yet again at a record high.” -UNHCR Global Trends
We should be inspired and encouraged by how a world-wide focus on poverty alleviation could have such an astounding effect on the lives of people. There has never been, in all of history, greater progress toward a more equitable world. That progress, however, comes at the same time we are seeing the record-setting forced displacement of many of those same people whose lives showed such great promise. Of the 68.5 million forcibly displaced people in the world, 40 million are languishing in the shadows of displacement camps within the borders of their own countries — far from the eyes of the world. We have proven, however, that our capacity to solve big problems is only limited by our resolve to unify and focus our efforts.
Political polarization and non-stop media coverage can numb us to the suffering of the rest of the world. We can easily be overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness in the face of such large numbers. We may have a tendency to recoil, to pull back — a luxury afforded many of us through the accident of birth. We can divorce ourselves from the realities of the world as easily as changing a television channel. This can certainly save us from the mental anguish required of engaged and compassionate people in a world rife with inequity, suffering, and palpable misery. The world’s vast social and humanitarian problems, even if we choose to ignore them, still have a way of washing up on our shores — bigger and more complicated with time.
Today, we have a better understanding of best practices for improving the lives of people. Solutions are readily available, if we have the curiosity and concern to seek them out. One of the incontrovertible conclusions is that the fastest way to peace and stability is both the education of girls and women and their equitable inclusion in the economy. A Georgetown University Institute for Women, Peace and Security report found that “women face the most severe economic exclusion in fragile and conflict-affected countries — precisely the nations that critically need their participation.” According to Save the Children’s Caroline Miles, “For every school year a girl completes, her actual income will go up between 10–20%.” Two data points illustrate the challenge in Afghanistan: 1) an estimated 3.7 million children are out-of-school — 60% of them are girls; and 2) 17 percent of Afghan women are in what is considered paid work, contrasted with 80 percent of men.
Common sense and an urgency to put effort and finite resources where they can make the greatest impact in Afghanistan point to providing women with marketable skills and education for their children — especially, but not exclusively, daughters. Decades of violence, war, and insecurity in Afghanistan have created a large number of internally displaced persons — most of whom are women and children. Displacement camps, where Afghans end up after fleeing violence and other untenable situations in their home villages, are places with few opportunities and very little hope of escaping the constraints of their new lives far from all that is familiar. This vulnerable population of women and children is a place where the greatest impact can be made in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.
Karadah Project and Women Education for Better Tomorrow Organization are focusing their efforts on the women in five displacement camps outside Herat, Afghanistan. In a world of inequities, these displaced and poor moms survive. This capacity to persist in some of the most austere of environments is a super power. Day after day they rise with the sun, do what is necessary to support and raise their children, and retire with the setting of the sun. Those are super powers worth nurturing. What might happen if these moms were given a chance to learn a new skill? What promise might be fulfilled if they received mentoring and opportunities to start small businesses? What would be the result of someone investing time in teaching them to read? How might things be different if their children, already academically disadvantaged, received early education intervention through a kindergarten? What would be the generational impact of helping one mother?
Mother Teresa once said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed just one.” This may be small consolation when the needs seem so overwhelming, except for the one person whose needs are met.
Consider the impact of our vocational skills program in the lives of the one:
These skills enable us to stay and work at home where we can care for our children. Before the program, we worked in the houses as cleaners and earned very little money. After joining these classes, we can now help our children and save. Thank you for bringing a change in my life!
If their husbands are jobless, these women can support their families. Step by step the society can improve. I am an example of an Afghan woman who works. I am a widow and I have seven children. If I don’t work, who will support my family? My children go to school now because of my income.
After attending these classes and spending time with the other women and teachers, I noticed psychological improvement. I can share my problems with the other women and get some help from them…These classes help me to feel strong by being able to work. These classes have empowered me.
I learned many things from the carpet weaving classes. I now know how to weave the carpet and it helps me to not have to leave my children to go clean homes. I am coming to these classes to learn skills so that I can help my family.
Perhaps our small efforts, combined with the cumulative efforts of others, will change the world.
LTC (retired) Rick Burns is founder and president of Karadah Project International, an Iowa nonprofit corporation focused on Afghanistan and Iraq.
On April 27, 2019, a gunman entered the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in Poway, California and opened fire on innocent worshipers. In the chaotic few minutes it took for one person to dramatically change the lives of the hundred people worshipping on that day, Lori Gilbert-Kaye stepped in front of Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein — saving his life and losing hers.
Rabbi Goldstein’s words, spoken in the aftermath of the tragedy have stayed with me.
I do not know why God spared my life in my Poway synagogue. All I can do is make this borrowed time matter.
The simple words he used to make sense of the calamity — make this borrowed time matter — carry with them an urgency and insistent willfulness to make something positive come from the ashes of tragedy. Rabbi Goldstein defiantly waved his bandaged hands, forever reminders of the day, and shouted, “terrorism like this will not take us down.”
In reflective moments I find myself expressing similar defiance: “poverty and inequality like this will not take us down.” Suffering in the world, particularly in insecure and conflict-ridden corners, should make us uncomfortable; not in a self-deprecating or disparaging way that inhibits action, but in a way that motivates and inspires us to do something to make the world a better place.
There are reasons to be inspired. Everyday I work with men and women who are creating order from chaos. Our Afghan partners are doing extraordinary work with poor and displaced women. They are changing the lives of hundreds of Afghan moms and their children. These incredible people lead organizations that are truly making their borrowed time matter.
Shindand Women Social Foundation (SWSF) is led by Dr. Safiullah Haidari and his family. Their continued support of women in rural Shindand District, many of whom are widows, has been both compassionate and heroic. Their family has endured death threats and the loss of family members to the brutality of those who prefer power and control over bringing relief to others. For most of us, doing good is respected and congratulated. For others, doing good is a truly heroic act. For them, to continue to do good requires a saintly level of courage and compassion.
Together, SWSF and Karadah Project have provided life-sustaining goats and hens to widows and poor women, offering them better nutrition, increased revenue, and hope for a better life. With the help of the Unique Zan Foundation, we built a wall around a rural medical clinic that we hope will encourage more women and children to seek better health care within its protection. We are also looking to improve the education and opportunities for children in Shindand District.
Women Education for Better Tomorrow Organization (WEBTO) is a women-founded nonprofit focused on other women who are languishing in austere and hopeless displacement camps. Imagine all that is familiar has been left behind and all that is in front of you is unfamiliar, unfriendly, and unwelcoming. Think of how you might feel if a group of women came to you and said we want to help you. We’ll give you marketable skills, teach you how to read and write, provide you with food for your family while you train, negotiate contracts so you can earn as you learn, mentor you, and provide you with a space where you can see hope.
WEBTO’s director, Fatima Qattali, and other members of WEBTO are changing the lives of hundreds of women through our Vocational Skills Program and livestock distributions. We have not stopped there, however. While we are supporting the immediate needs of displaced women, we are looking to the future through a kindergarten for their children.
Today, a record number of people have been forced to flee from persecution, conflict, and violence, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. About 40 million of the over 68.5 million forcibly displaced people in the world still live in their own countries. Far from the media coverage are millions who languish anonymously in internally displaced persons camps. These camps, meant to be temporary, quickly become permanent places of hopelessness — filled mostly with women and children.
In a world of inequities, displaced and poor moms survive. This capacity to persist in some of the most austere environments is a super power. Day after day they rise with the sun, do what is necessary to support and raise their children, and retire with the setting of the sun. Those are super powers worth nurturing.
What might happen if these moms were given a chance to learn a new skill? What promise might be fulfilled if they received mentoring and opportunities to start small businesses? What would be the result of someone investing time in teaching them to read? How might things be different if their children, already academically disadvantaged, received early education intervention through a kindergarten? What would be the generational impact of helping one mother?
This is how we are making this borrowed time matter. If you would like to help, click below:
Unleashing Afghan Mom Super Powers
LTC (retired) Rick Burns is founder and president of Karadah Project International, an Iowa nonprofit corporation focused on Afghanistan and Iraq.
“We are at a watershed, where success in managing forced displacement globally requires a new and far more comprehensive approach so that countries and communities aren’t left dealing with this alone.”
Those of us blessed to live in places of relative security and prosperity are the exception in a world of great complexity and inequity. The great blessing of that prosperity is that we can insulate ourselves from the suffering of others. In equal measure, the curse of our prosperity is that we do not have to experience the suffering of others, if we choose not to. This is not to say that we should walk around with a cloud of guilt hanging over us. The suffering of others should, however, trouble our souls. We should be uncomfortable with the great inequities in the world and find ways within our means to make the world a better place.
Through the nonprofit I founded, I’m focused on Iraq and Afghanistan where I served as a US Army soldier. My experiences there brought me in contact with people who are my life-time friends and heroes. I met Yasmin who once showed me a bullet that someone had left with a note that threatened her with death if she continued to serve on a local Baghdad council. She laughed and continues to serve these many years later. I met Mohammed Alrubyae who, formerly as the District Council Chairman and currently as a member of the Baghdad Provincial Council, brings local Muslim leaders together in a Baghdad Christian Church once a year where they sing the Iraqi national anthem with their Christian neighbors.
There are others whose epic humanitarian efforts are both humbling and inspiring. Hala Alsaraf, who could live a comfortable life in Baghdad, chooses to spend both her money and her time in seeking out those in greatest need, without consideration of religion, ethnicity, or political affiliation. Safi Haidari who, in spite of losing a brother and a cousin to murder and threats to his own life, continues to fight for the well-being of poor women in rural Afghan communities. Fatima Qatalli, a former refugee in Iran under the Taliban regime, and her women colleagues founded a nonprofit to support poor and disadvantaged Afghan women and children in displaced persons camps around their city.
One of the most poignant moments of my life happened in 2010 while I served in Kandahar, Afghanistan. I met as part of a larger group with leaders from a local nomadic tribe that, for a variety of reasons, had settled into a squatters’ camp outside of town. The meeting had something to do with providing support to the community; the details of the meeting are less important than the lesson. I am confident that if we had been able to provide support, it would have been too little for even the immediate needs of the people. As I looked into the eyes of the leader of the bedraggled group, I felt deeply the debilitating effects of poverty and illiteracy in a way I had never experienced before. He stood erect and proud, but there was a sullen resignation and surrendering to the realities of his plight in his eyes. His weather-worn face haunts me still and inspires a sense of urgency in my efforts.
Today, a record number of people have been forced to flee from persecution, conflict, and violence, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. About 40 million of the over 60 million displaced people in the world still live in their own countries. Far away from the media coverage of the refugees crossing international borders are millions who languish anonymously in internally displaced persons camps. These camps, meant to be temporary, quickly become permanent places of hopelessness — filled mostly with women and children.
In a world of inequities, displaced and poor moms survive. This capacity to persist in some of the most austere of environments is a super power. Day after day they rise with the sun, do what is necessary to support and raise their children, and retire with the setting of the sun. Those are super powers worth nurturing. What might happen if these moms were given a chance to learn a new skill? What promise might be fulfilled if they received mentoring and opportunities to start small businesses? What would be the result of someone investing time in teaching them to read? How might things be different if their children, already academically disadvantaged, received early education intervention through a kindergarten? What would be the generational impact of helping one mother?
I am excited about the beginning of a new year. Karadah Project is kicking off the year with a six month vocational training program for 300 displaced Afghan women. These women will receive training in marketable skills, business and literacy instruction, food support, introduction to gender equity resources, and ongoing mentoring. In addition, we’re adding early education intervention through a kindergarten for displaced and poor Afghan children. We’ll expand our agricultural projects that provide families with increased income and better nutrition. We’ll also continue partnership programs with Rotary International, Sister Cities International, and other local and international organizations. We hope to change the world, at least in a small corner of it.
LTC (retired) Rick Burns founded Karadah Project to support peace, stability, and humanitarian efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan after Army deployments to those countries. With our dedicated partners, we are helping displaced and disadvantaged women move themselves and their families out of poverty.
I am amazed at and inspired by the resiliency of people, particularly women. Too often disdained, those who exist in a world of poverty, insecurity, displacement, and other monumental disadvantages find ways to survive and thrive. They get up each morning and face the day with courage and resolve, partially because they have to, but mostly because they choose to live. We see them as victims of circumstances, but they are so much more. Their super hero power, in a real world, is survival.
The women we work with in the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Afghanistan are moms, with all of the maternal instincts, worries, and cares of moms all over the world. Their lives, enormously more challenged, are still familiar. We share the human experience in a way that may be startling to some. Cultural differences aside, we are much more alike than we are different.
Our vocational skills training program is filled with women of extraordinary character and will to succeed. One of our teachers said, “I am an example of an Afghan woman who works. I am a widow and I have seven children. If I don’t work, who will support my family? My children go to school now because of my income.” A twenty-six year old mother of four boys whose husband is addicted to drugs said, “I am coming to these classes to learn skills so that I can help my family.” I suspect we all have experiences with women who, alone, take on the responsibilities and burdens of family for similar reasons. Many of us have reached out with compassion to these heroes in our lives and witnessed spectacular success.
The IDP camps where our women live are places of hopelessness and few opportunities. Forced out of their homes and away from everything that is familiar by violence and insecurity, they are huddled into temporary camps that quickly become permanent. Many have disabled husbands, others have been abandoned by spouses, and still others are widows. In the best of circumstances, their lives are challenged. What could be accomplished if these women had skills that could significantly improve their lives and empower them?
Karadah Project and Afghan women-founded Women Education for Better Tomorrow Organization, believe that with a bit of help these women can pull themselves out of poverty. What would a hand reached into the shadows of a faraway place mean? Perhaps everything.
If you would like to help, please visit our campaign site at:
LTC (retired) Rick Burns founded Karadah Project to support peace, stability, and humanitarian efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan after Army deployments to those countries. We are helping displaced and disadvantaged women move themselves and their families out of poverty.
Afghan women as agents of change
Since helping to topple the Taliban in late 2001, the United States has spent over one trillion dollars on the war in Afghanistan. The situation on the ground is undoubtedly complex and the seemingly unending conflict has produced profound pain and placed tremendous burden on Afghan women. And yet the women of Afghanistan are far more than voiceless victims. They are resilient agents of change who in spite of unimaginable hardship continue to actively transform and rise above their suffering. As we work for sustainable solutions in Afghanistan, it is vital that we prioritize the empowerment of Afghan women, for their success is a key component of lasting peace in the region. According to the largest data set on the status of women in the world to date countries where women are more empowered are less likely to experience civil conflict or to go to war with their neighbors. “Gender equality is a stronger predictor of a state’s peacefulness than its level of democracy, predominant religion, or gross domestic product (GDP).”
Training women in the Minaret Displaced Persons Camp
The Karadah Project has partnered with The Women’s Education for a Better Tomorrow Organization (WEBTO), an Afghan women-founded nonprofit working hard to support the women of Herat. A UN World Food Program Grant provides the women with food rations to feed themselves and their families as they go through the six-month program.
Nafeesa, a 26-year old woman in the program, began taking the carpet weaving classes four months ago. She shared that she began participating because her husband is addicted to drugs and she must care for her four little boys. “I learned many things from the carpet weaving classes. I now know how to weave the carpet and it helps me to not have to leave my children to go clean homes. I am coming to these classes to learn skills so that I can help my family,” Nafessa shares.
She continues, “We now have an income to buy rice and oils. We learn these skills and get food vouchers. These skills enable us to stay and work at home where we can care for our children. Before the program, we worked in the houses as cleaners and earned very little money. After joining these classes, we can now help our children and save. Thank you for bringing a change in my life!”
Nafeesa’s carpet weaving teacher is confident that as the women gain these skills, Afghan society will be significantly strengthened. “If their husbands are jobless, these women can support their families. Step by step the society can improve. I am an example of an Afghan woman who works. I am a widow and I have seven children. If I don’t work, who will support my family? My children go to school now because of my income.”
By participating in the training programs, many women are also building mental and emotional resilience. Kharzone, a twenty-eight-year-old woman in the tailoring class, expressed, “After attending these classes and spending time with the other women and teachers, I noticed psychological improvement. I can share my problems with the other women and get some help from them...These classes help me to feel strong by being able to work. These classes have empowered me.”
We are on a mission to eliminate poverty. You can partner with us. After completing the training courses, many of the women hope to open a shop and directly sell their products. One hundred more women in Minaret Displaced Persons Camp need your support. For $130.00, you can provide a courageous woman like Nafeesa the skills training she needs to move out poverty into a brighter future full of hope.
Lindsay Stanek is a M.A. candidate at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. She is concentrating on international security with a regional focus on the Middle East.
Finding ways to move people out of poverty is challenging in the best of circumstances. It is made even more difficult in areas where civil war, local instability, domestic violence, and other kinds of conflict disproportionately impact women and children. In many conflict areas, women find themselves displaced and living in unfamiliar places— corralled into camps where they often become disadvantaged heads of households because their husbands have died, become disabled, or abandoned them. In other circumstances, husbands may not be able to fully support the family.
Women’s economic participation and their ownership and control of productive assets speeds up development, helps overcome poverty, reduces inequalities and improves children’s nutrition, health, and school attendance. Women typically invest a higher proportion of their earnings in their families and communities than men. (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)
…greater control over household resources by women, either through their own earnings or cash transfers, can enhance countries’ growth prospects by changing spending in ways that benefit children. (World Bank, 2012)
A key element in eliminating poverty is to find ways to put sustainable resources into the hands of women.
Over the past several decades, aid and development practices have become more focused on accountability, effectiveness, and sustainability; this is leading to better long-term results.
Since the early 1990s, daily life in poor countries has been changing profoundly for the better: one billion people have escaped extreme poverty, average incomes have doubled, infant death rates have plummeted, millions more girls have enrolled in school, chronic hunger has been cut almost in half, deaths from malaria and other diseases have declined dramatically, democracy has spread far and wide, and the incidence of war — even with Syria and other conflicts — has fallen by half. (Stephen Radelet)
These are astounding results that should encourage investment in projects that put sustainable resources in the hands of women. Four years ago Karadah Project worked closely with our local Afghan partner, Shindand Women Social Foundation (SWSF), to give goats to women in villages in rural Shindand district. The women are managing their growing herds well — eating some for better nutrition, selling some for family income, and milking the others for both a healthier diet and income for life’s necessities. The lives of these women and their families have been improved significantly through a resource that reproduces itself.
Earlier this year, Karadah Project purchased hens for women in Shindand District and a displaced persons camp in Herat, Afghanistan. Through SWSF we purchased 200 hens that are now providing meat and eggs that improve the health and income of families. Our partner, Women Education for Better Tomorrow Organization (WEBTO), is a local Afghan women-founded nonprofit that is helping women in the five displaced persons camps in and around Herat, Afghanistan. WEBTO helped us distribute 200 hens among some of the displaced women they are working with. As with our successful goat projects, we anticipate our hens will continue to provide a reliable source of better nutrition and increased family income, managed with care and skill by women.
Our partnership with WEBTO is also impacting the lives of hundreds of the displaced women through vocational skills training. After assessments and interviews that determine interests, aptitudes, etc., women participants are provided 6 months of specific skills training in areas such as carpet weaving, sewing, embroidery, cosmetology, and setting up a business. The hardworking women of WEBTO actively negotiate contracts with local businesses that allow the participants to earn as they learn. WEBTO and Karadah Project have also partnered with the UN World Food Program to provide food rations for the women and their families while they are learning. During the past year we have trained 350 women. Our current class holds an additional 100 participants.
Imagine the power unleashed by 450 women with skills and access to markets. Think of the generational impact of mothers passing skills to their daughters.
We are on a mission to eliminate poverty. You can join us.
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LTC (ret) Rick Burns founded Karadah Project to support peace, stability, and humanitarian efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan after Army deployments to those countries. We are helping displaced and disadvantaged women move themselves and their families out of poverty.
A few weeks ago, Rotary International invited me to speak at the Peacebuilding Through Education and Literacy Conference held in Chicago, Illinois. I welcomed the opportunity to share with fellow rotarians some of the challenges facing Afghanistan, but more importantly the impact education has had on the lives of Afghans over the past 15–20 years. The relative security over that period has given rise to a unique generation of men and women who are making a difference in ways unimagined by their parents and grandparents. Over the past almost two decades, young Afghans have benefited from increased education opportunities, expanded travel, and exposure to new ideas. These courageous, smart, and capable women and men are now finding their way into increasingly more responsible leadership positions where they will continue to be a force for stability and peace.
In preparation for my presentation, I asked four Afghan women with whom I work in Afghanistan to share their thoughts on education. I was impressed by their frank and realistic assessment of the great challenges that face their country and inspired by their faith in an Afghanistan remade by educated women, in particular. The following are their thoughts.
The basis for all my social, political, and cultural achievements has been education, knowledge and awareness. Without education, I could not have succeeded as a young woman in the political and cultural arena and as one of the young leaders I could not have played a role in today’s society.
Somaia Ramish just completed her term as an elected member of the Herat Provincial Council. She is also a published poet, was recently awarded a master’s degree in Persian literature from Delhi (India) University, and is a candidate for the Afghanistan Parliament.
When I was in elementary school we immigrated to Iran, because of the repressive Taliban government in Afghanistan. The government of Iran didn’t let Afghan children attend school, but some unapproved private schools opened with tuition fees. The only person who helped me was my mother who only had a 4th grade education. During the day my mother was busy caring for five children and the housework, but at night she took on extra sewing projects to pay for my school fees. My mother helped a little girl and now that girl helps other women. I am really thankful for everything my mother did for me. Educated women can change the world.
Fatima Qattali is director of the Women Education for a Better Tomorrow Organization, an Afghan women founded nonprofit working with disadvantaged women in the displaced persons camps in and around Herat, Afghanistan. She is also an educator, a civil society activist, and committed to improving the education opportunities for girls.
Most of my life, I was either a student or a teacher. When I finished high school in Iran as a refugee, I established a school for Afghan refugee children who were not allowed to go to Iranian schools. I started teaching with 10 students and they became more than 300 after 3 years. Local government and police officials closed my school several times because it was illegal, but I opened it each time until I was finally able to register it with the support of the Afghanistan embassy in Tehran. Actually, everybody knew me in that city because I was communicating and fighting with all the authorities to keep my school open. Afghan parents really supported me because they cared for the future of their children.
Fatema Jafari, is a member of the Herat Provincial Council, a published author, and a civil society activist. In 2016, she completed a year-long fellowship with the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C. and Yale University.
I owe my current status to my education. My tertiary education helped me to get a job and advance my career. Financially independent, I reserved the right to make my own decisions while the patriarchal society of Afghanistan pushed back. I went to the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship and completed my graduate studies in one of the best universities in the world. As a Stanford alumnus I returned to prestigious jobs — first with UNICEF and then with World Vision International. I have enjoyed my work as an education practitioner and researcher, but I can also choose my life partner myself which often has not been the case for women in previous generations. For a new generation of educated and financially independent Afghan girls this is a possibility. Education has changed Afghan society in many aspects, but of course women have benefited the most as they have found their voice, their agency, and their rights by gaining an education.
Somaye Sarvarzada graduated from Stanford University on a Fullbright scholarship. She is also a civil society activist, Education Lead for World Vision International, and the incoming president of the Herat Rotary Club.
In a world desperately searching for answers to the problems of instability in conflict areas, the lives of these inspiring women should be evidence of the critical importance of investing in education. A short two decades ago, these women would not have been allowed outside their homes unaccompanied. They now run organizations, seek and win public office, speak loudly in public forums, and advocate on behalf of the disadvantaged. They are iteratively changing the face of Afghanistan for the better. If we have the long-term commitment and patience to support them in their efforts, there is hope that peace will return to Afghanistan.
LTC (ret) Rick Burns is founder and president of The Karadah Project International, an Iowa 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation committed to building sustainable and long-term solutions in partnership with the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Four years ago, Karadah Project International and Shindand Women Social Foundation (SWSF), a local Afghan nonprofit organization, began a partnership to provide goats to fifteen women in each of two villages. Before the participants took ownership of their two does and two kids, they learned the basics of goat care during a four-month training program.
In each village, we centralized the milk processing equipment to economize on cost, simplify training, and give the women a place and reason to meet and share ideas.
After the women completed the training and were successfully managing their growing herd of goats, a surge in Taliban violence made it untenable and dangerous for our program managers to remain in the area. We left the goats in the care of the women and under the protection of the local leaders and monitored the progress of our goats from a distance through them. Due to recent successful clearing operations by Afghan security forces, the Taliban is in retreat in Shindand District. We are excited to again be working closely with our friends there.
The following two charts contain data from the latest audit of our goats in Khairabad and Shorab villages. The herds have been well-managed, allowing the women to eat some, sell others, and milk and breed the balance. The net result is improved nutrition and increased family income.
Our one-time investment in Afghan families perpetually reproduces itself and provides a sustainable means of improved nutrition and increased family income.
THE HENS ARE COMING
Supplementing our successful goat projects, we are now distributing 20 egg-laying hens to ten women in each of our two villages and an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Herat, Afghanistan.
Here’s what a few chickens mean to a family in rural Afghanistan.
SWSF will manage our Khairabad and Shorab village projects in partnership with local village leaders and our women participants. The work SWSF has done with our projects and its own women’s literacy and vocational skills training projects has been exemplary. They have earned both our trust and confidence. We are grateful for their hard work, expertise, and friendship.
The Women’s Education for a Better Tomorrow Organization (WEBTO) will lead our hen distribution in Minaret IDP camp. WEBTO is an Afghan women-founded organization doing incredible work in helping disadvantaged and displaced women gain the necessary vocational skills to lift themselves out of poverty. Beginning on April 1, 2018, WEBTO and Karadah Project are also partnering on a six-month vocational training program in the Minaret IDP camp.
SWSF has begun the purchase of 200 hens and the selection of participants in Khairabad. WEBTO has also started the process of setting up our Minaret IDP camp project. The Karadah Project is currently raising funds for the Shorab village hen project to complete our initial hen distributions.
We intend to expand our livestock operations to include more displaced and disadvantaged women in Herat Province. Women are among the most vulnerable in rural areas and in IDP camps. Their opportunities are limited, nevertheless, many have become heads of households because their husbands have died, are disabled, or have abandoned them. Whatever the circumstances, these families find it difficult to rise above their poverty. It is a heart-rending experience to select only a few women out of so many who are in need. WEBTO and Karadah Project are committed to supporting these courageous women’s efforts to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
Far from being powerless, these are women of great fortitude, courage, and resourcefulness. Their lives are tragically difficult; of that there is no doubt. They are survivors, however, and demonstrate quiet daily heroism and dignity in their humble circumstances. Through our goat projects they have proven that with a small investment, they have the capacity to improve their lives and lift themselves out of extreme poverty. With your help, we can support more of these women.
UNDER SECRETARY FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS STEVE GOLDSTEIN PRESENTS CITIZEN DIPLOMACY AWARD TO COUNCIL BLUFFS SISTER CITIES ASSOCIATION
WASHINGTON, DC (January 24, 2018) – Sister Cities International congratulates one of its members, the Council Bluffs Sister Cities Association, on receiving the Bureau of Public Affair’s annual Citizen Diplomacy award. Steve Goldstein, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, will present the award at a ceremony to be held at 4pm on Monday, January 29, 2018, at the U.S. Department of State. The Citizen Diplomacy Award was created in recognition of American citizens and organizations engaged in international work that furthers U.S. foreign policy objectives and strengthens important relationships around the globe.
The Council Bluffs Sister Cities Association (CBSCA) has fostered over 30 years of citizen diplomacy, with four sister cities on three contents. CBSCA has collaborated with its respective sister cities on initiatives such as humanitarian assistance, language development, professional education, and the celebration of culture for better understanding between communities. The Council Bluffs Sister Cities Association serves as an effective ambassador for U.S. values on a global stage and as a bridge to U.S. innovation, investment, support, and resources for its sister cities.
The awards presentation will be open to the press. For the ceremony, pre-set time for cameras is 3:15 p.m. from the C Street entrance. Media representatives may attend these events upon presentation of one of the following: (1) A U.S. Government-issued identification card (Department of State, White House, Congress, Department of Defense or Foreign Press Center), (2) a media-issued photo identification card, or (3) a letter from their employer on letterhead verifying their employment as a journalist, accompanied by an official photo identification card (driver's license, passport).
For more information, please contact Irina Karmanova at KarmanovaIA2@state.gov.
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About Sister Cities International
Founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, Sister Cities International serves as the national membership organization sister city programs in over 500 communities, with relationships in 2,000 communities in 145 countries. This sister city network unites tens of thousands of citizen diplomats and volunteers who work tirelessly to promote peace and understanding through programs and projects focusing on arts and culture, youth and education, economic and sustainable development, and humanitarian assistance.
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At a 1956 summit on citizen diplomacy, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said citizen diplomacy “is the most worthwhile purpose in the world today: to help build the road to peace, to help build the road to an enduring peace.” I think as President Eisenhower contemplated all that he had experienced as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War II and as president during the Cold War, he had in mind partnerships with cities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Palestine, South Sudan, and other places where peace is so desperately sought and always just out of reach. These are places where partnerships are hard and challenging, but where the hope of citizen diplomacy shines brightest; where the need is greatest and the impact is felt deeply. These are places where the work is tough, but the rewards the sweetest.
Karadah Project International
The Karadah Project International is an Iowa 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation committed to building sustainable and long-term solutions in partnership with the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.