AFGHANISTAN:

Raising Women’s Voices through Media

February 23, 2011

DSC_0272-800x531  Overlooking what remains of the once breathtaking Buddhas of Bamiyan province in central Afghanistan, ten young women stand in a semi-circle around a camera and tripod, holding microphones and a light reflecting screen. The professional thrill experienced by journalists worldwide is palpable among these novices.

Poised but energized, the young women take turns interviewing each other, not only about their community, but about why this training program is so important for them. Despite never having practiced with a real camera, they catch-on immediately as they start to refine their directing and reporting skills. Never before have they been given an opportunity to learn tangible skills or had the opportunity for their voices to be heard in such a way.

One television and two radio stations currently operate in Bamiyan City, yet none employed any professional female media staff. Although these stations have expressed a desire to include professional female journalists among their staff, there are no trained female journalists available in the region. The Bamiyan Journalists Association is changing that. The Association has been active in Bamiyan, implementing small training programs for local journalists, and has invited participants from local and international media to help train students.

With support from USAID, the Ambassador’s Small Grants Program (ASGP) strengthens the capacity of women-focused civil society organizations such as the Association with the aim of widely contributing to the social, economic, and political development of women throughout Afghanistan.

After meeting with ASGP staff, the Association applied for a Quick Impact Grant to educate young women interested in communications and journalism in the province. Their proposed grant aimed to train ten literate young women on reporting, computer skills, interview techniques, TV broadcasting and photography for four months. The goal of the Association program is to provide women with the skills and education needed to obtain employment within Bamiyan Province or throughout Afghanistan. “Women need a voice and we are giving these women the skills to be a voice for themselves and for others,” said Hadi Ghafari, the head of the Association, which provides a safe and constructive environment for the students. Women attend classes for two hours every day, and some stay longer. Already two students trained by the Association have gone on to work as reporters for BBC.

With its first ASGP grant, the Association decided to start small, in order to gauge interest in the program. However, after the program idea was announced throughout the community, 240 interested women and girls wanted to participate. Now, the Association plans to apply for an additional ASGP grant and is trying to find other resources to ensure they can reach the remaining 230 women interested in participating in this valuable initiative.

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