By Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould
Saturday, December 7, 2002
Sima Wali returned to Afghanistan after 24 years in exile and found herself in a classroom, teaching the craft of proposal writing to 18 women's groups seeking U.N. aid to rebuild their lives.
Although Wali met with twenty-eight groups, it was the 18 local women-led organizations assessed during the first week who are welcomed for participation in the workshop. Having formulated a strategy for their self-empowerment, Wali's course focuses on the much needed proposal-writing skills required for accessing international funds.
Gathering at Aina ("mirror" in Dari), a French-run multimedia and cultural center, the 22 participants respond to the process with excitement and joy and over the week progress rapidly towards proficiency. Based on the needs identified to support civil society being built by these NGOs, Wali then develops a three year proposal for the UN to be considered under the reconstruction program for Afghanistan.
For Wali, the workshop's success is affirmation, not only that Afghan women could retain their basic beliefs in the freedoms already enshrined in their 1964 constitution, but could also reclaim their rights to those freedoms given the watchful eye and protection of the international community.
Elizabeth Gould and Paul Fitzgerald, a husband-and-wife team, were the first American journalists to acquire permission to enter Afghanistan behind Soviet lines in 1981. They covered Afghanistan for CBS News, PBS, ABC Nightline and the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour. On Oct. 6, 2002 they traveled back to Afghanistan to cover the return of Sima Wali, the culmination of a five-year collaboration with her.
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