The Story of Women for Afghan Women

The origin of Women for Afghan Women

Girls' Globe

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In the spring of 2001, six months before 9/11, a group of passionate women’s rights activists came together with the goal of garnering international attention on the plight of Afghan women and girls living under Taliban rule. Little did these extraordinary women know that their efforts to expose the world to the brutalities and injustices of the Taliban period would lead to the founding of one of the leading women’s rights organizations in Afghanistan and the transformation of thousands of lives.

Women for Afghan Women (WAW) was founded in 2001. While researching the state of women’s rights in Afghanistan, WAW co-founders quickly learned that Afghan women living in New York were facing similar abuses and isolation as their sisters at home. In order to respond to this crisis, in 2003, WAW opened its New York Community Center. The Center serves under-educated (mostly illiterate) Afghan women immigrants and their families with…

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WAW Climb for Justice: Week 2

This weeks film: The French Crown

In this weeks film a tackle a crown of peaks leading from Arinsal and spilling over the French border.

At the top of the mountain in Arinsal ski area you get off the lift and look out onto a distant crown of mountains, snow capped, cloud crested and inviting. I’d been eyeing these up for some time now, the solitary eagle circling above. It looked like a very good circuit to attempt and from line of sight, not too time consuming.

Unfortunately these particular mountains fell off the side of my map and so I had to plan my day purely by line of sight. Who needs maps anyway? I set off at 8.15am from my hotel, my new pair of hired (for free) snow shoes strapped to my bag. I’ve never used snow shoes before but always wanted to and since I had a good deal of deep powder last time and my crampons were pretty useless, I thought I’d give it a go.

It was a gruelling 11 hour day and left me exhausted and walking home in the dark. So without further ado, here it is:

Women for Afghan Women: The work they do

Let’s not forget what this is all about. WAW provide women and girls with life saving support, shelter and legal guidance in human rights violations in Afghanistan.

In 2013, one  of Women for Afghan Women’s clients was 17 years old when she was married to a man who already had a wife and children. The man physically and mentally abused her for years. Unable to endure more, the client decided to divorce him. She went to the local Department of Women’s Affairs who referred her to WAW. This woman is currently living in a WAW shelter and attending empowerment classes while her defense lawyer is working on her divorce.

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So If you’d like to donate to this wonderful cause, visit my JustGiving page and tag a friend on Facebook to donate too. Follow my weekly climbs in support of WAW and keep donating each time I release a new video.

Climb for Justice: So here’s what I did

After grabbing a pair of skis from the hire shop I headed outside, but unfortunately I didn’t realise that the first lifts don’t open until 9am, so I was sitting waiting for half an hour impatiently at the top with the other dawn patrol. These dedicated snowboarder and I watched the sunrise over the mountain before the gates opened and got on the very first chair.

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A couple of chairlifts later and I was at the start of my hike. I had originally thought that getting the chairlifts and having skis would save me a bunch of time and effort, but by the time I finally got started it was already 9.30am. I did however, get about 1000m of elevation gain for free, so trade -offs. My route for the day was as follows:

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I ditched my skis and boots at the top of the resort, planning on collecting them and skiing down later, and headed out in an anti-clockwise direction around the crown. The weather was fine and sunny for most of the day and the first part of the hike was a slow and steady walk in regular hiking boots to the start of the bowl.

When I hit the bottom of the bowl at 11am where the forest began, I donned the snow-shoes for the first time and wow! The extra surface area made a big difference in the soft powder and I glided down as if on skis.

The forest was beautiful and the sound of birds filled the air, much more inviting than the constant thrum of chairlifts in resort. I kind of lost track of time here however, and after a slow and tiring traverse I found myself at the first ascent by 12.30pm, much later than I had planned. It had now been three hours since I started and I was only just at the first ascent of the bowl.

Throwing off the snow-shoes, I headed for hard ground and climbed up the right hand side, not resting until I had gotten to the top (Peak #1). The sun was now on my face again and I went from cold to too hot in no time, shedding layers until I was just in my T-shirt and waterproof. After A further two hours I was finally at the top where I had picked out my meditation spot for the day (Peak #2).

But I was still against the clock.

Rising up, had a quick warm up with some Thai Chi and then threw on some beats to get me through the next section: The Ridge.

alone-at-the-topThis one wasn’t nearly as severe as last time, but It still presented it’s challenges and was a lot longer than I had anticipated. In fact, the entire left hand side of the crown had been hiding a nasty little ridge with many ups and downs, constantly losing and gaining elevation. I was very conscious of time by this point and so I pressed on through exhaustion to get round the crown, trying to motivate myself by keeping the end goal in sight: my skis. If I didn’t get back to them on time, I would be walking home…

The technical climb section, previously hidden from my sight, took up a lot of time and required some axe work, but It wasn’t too bad. It was more the time of day dragging on that really took it out of me. I thought to myself “Why do I put myself through this?” and then I remembered: for all the women and girls suffering in Afghanistan and around the world.

Then I hit the ice sheet.

Coming down the final descent towards the road I had planned on making up a bunch of time by sliding all  the way down, but when I got there I immediately slipped and launched myself down at high speed, saving myself with the axe once more. The entire northern side of the mountain was sheet ice, having been kept shaded from the low sun. I then had to be extremely careful, inching my way across, digging in with the axe and inching some more. At one point I slid down backwards, looking through my legs at the world moving upside down, using the axe as a brake. This was quite disorientating, but amusingly original. I always find that good humour can carry you through the toughest of situations, and laughing at one’s self is the best medicine for panic!

I made it down to the road by 5.30pm, a further three hours from my meditation point, pretty much without rest. I was now on safe ground and as the sun had already set, lost hopes of seeing my skis today. It’s one thing to ski home after the mountain is closed, but it’s another altogether to ski home in total darkness. This was not an option.

It would have taken me about two hours to walk to the town, where I could have called a cab, but It was now pitch black, I had been walking for nine hours, and I was now extremely cold. So, what to do?

I called my friend Matt and he came and met me with his van. It was a very pleasant walk for about an hour to where I could meet him and the night sky was spectacular. The old moon was in the new moons arms, a term for when you can see a slither of moon and the dark side is illuminated with the reflection from the earth, a beautiful sight. Jupiter was also out in full splendour just behind it and The Milky Way was splashed across the sky, with not a light to pollute it anywhere.

When he met me I pointed out all these wonderful astronomical sights and we star gazed for a while before heading home to get some food and a cup of tea.

All in all the day finished at around 7.30pm, I was walking for ten hours, and I had to go and collect my skis the next day.

So if you thought I put in a good effort, check out Women for Afghan Women’s website and see all the amazing work they do to further Women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Once again thanks for all your support and don’t forget to follow the blog below for weekly updates, a new video release and visit my JustGiving page to donate. Thanks for reading.

Women for Afghan Women: Climb for Justice

Women’s rights

Every day in Afghanistan women and girls as young as aged 8 are being forced into marriage, mentally and physically abused, and denied even the most basic of freedoms and dignity we take for granted in other parts of the world. It’s easy to forget just how lucky we are to have grown up in the environment we have, and its even easier for men to forget how privileged we are, even in our own patriarchal societies.

Did you know that a lot of girls in Afghanistan aren’t even allowed to go outside, or are harassed or beaten on the streets for walking alone, then beaten again when they get home for bringing “shame” on the family. Families are afraid to send girls to school over the age of 12 because of fear of attacks on the street, resulting in denial of education. Victims of rape are often forced to marry their attackers, or threatened with honour killings to clear their family name. Some girls are even sold into marriage just to get rid of them, or exchanged in order to repay debts.

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The sad truth is that horrible human rights violations happen every day in Afghanistan, and that some women and girls grow up believing that this is the norm, and don’t even know their own right to human rights. Well guess what? Women’s rights ARE human rights and that’s what Women for Afghan Women are striving to forward in Afghanistan and the rest of the world.

Women for Afghan Women (WAW) is a grassroots, civil society organisation, who’s mission is dedicated to securing and protecting the rights of disenfranchised Afghan women and girls in Afghanistan and New York, particularly their rights to develop their individual potential and self-determination.

“We provide life-saving programs and services for women and children across Afghanistan who have endured human rights violations, including forced and underage marriage, rape, forced prostitution, unlawful imprisonment, and barred access to education and employment.”

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WAW operate family guidance centres, confidential women’s shelters, children’s support centres and most importantly women’s rights training programs, which help to educated the community, police, religious leaders and women about women’s rights.

A participant in their training program said:

“Knowing my rights makes me realize that I don’t have to accept violence as normal and legal. I’m glad I am not alone and there are people to help women like me.”

So what am I going to do about it?

Living in the mountains in Andorra I’m not exactly in a position to be campaigning on the streets of Kabul, so I’ve come up with a way to help from where I live, using the tools I have. My mission for the rest of the winter will be to climb a new mountain / mountains each week to raise money for this brilliant charity and help spread awareness of women’s rights around the world.

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Each week I will be fighting through horrendous weather conditions, challenging deadly peaks and planting their flag atop a snow brimmed peak. But this is nothing compared with the courage and determination of the women who stand up for their own human rights everyday, and those that help them, even putting their own lives in danger in the process.

Each week I will be dedicating a mountain to one of the hundreds of women WAW help with their programs, and an exceptional staff member who has shown their determination and courage helping in their case. I will be documenting my climbs and releasing a new video and gallery each week, so follow me on my mission and continue growing support.

What you can do is join me in my continued determination and donate to help life saving and empowering work for women’s rights in Afghanistan. Each time I plant the flag on a new peak visit my JustGiving page and donate just £5, or as much as you can.

If I can keep going each week, keep giving and help me hit my target of £4000 for the season. This isn’t a one time gimmick, I want you to donate each time I release a new video and to nominate one person on Facebook to donate next week, and so on, and so on.

Let’s make this campaign go viral!

So what does your charity buy?

£40 provides one month of empowerment classes, targeted at giving disenfranchised women the confidence to strive in society and the workplace.

£80 is one month of food for a child in one of WAWs children support centres.

£200 gives school supplies for five children in WAWs children support centres, giving them the hope and opportunities provided by education.

£400 covers women’s rights training for Afghan communities, helping to change the underpinning reasons for human rights abuse in society.

£800 pays for a six month stay in a WAW women’s shelter, providing confidential and life saving shelter for the most vulnerable women and children.

£2000 provides medical care for a woman or child who has suffered from physical abuse, sometimes amounting to torture.

£4000 provides legal aid for 150 women or girls, providing escape from hopeless situations, including: forced marriage, abuse, and denial of human rights.

So sit back Donate and watch the show

Here it is, my first video. In this film I tackle two peaks connected by a deadly ridge. Warming up my ice axe for the first time, I don my crampons and hit the ice and snow. More than 11 hours of brutal climbing and a few near misses later…

Liked the video? Visit my JustGiving page and donate now, and don’t forget to nominate a friend on Facebook by hitting the share button and tagging them in the post. Follow my campaign right here below, or on Twitter or Facebook and visit WAW’s website. Share the links and help spread the word. Let’s make Women’s rights human rights.