Thursday, 20 December 2007

Boxing in Kabul

photo: Barb and her husband Tariq
Excerpts from the blog of Barb Everdene, of Victoria Monthly Meeting, now living in Kabul.
5 Aug 2007 After much soul-searching, I realize that I cannot leave this country.
Oct 2007 An NGO Cooperation for Peace and Unity started a women’s boxing program here in Kabul in February 2007. Well, when I learned that I just freaked out. I had been thinking of doing a similar thing myself, and here it has already been started. Right away, I called up the Director of the program and we met for lunch. He was thrilled to find a woman boxer to help with training and of course I was thrilled to volunteer myself enthusiastically. The weirdest thing was, the program also promotes confidence-building and provides conflict resolution training, and the Director spent several months in [Woodbrooke] Quaker Study Center in England....
I met my team of fifteen boxers this week and took my first look at Kabul’s ‘Olempeek’ Stadium. Dari contains quite a few English words (i.e. Olempeek) but one of the things I find hilarious is that Dari-speakers have morphed the vowels into Dari phonetics and they can’t recognize what I’m saying when I use the same English word! ...
ME: Shuma mayfamen kuja Olympic Stadium hast?
Driver: ‘Olympic’??
ME: Errr… esport mekannen…Olympic!!!
Driver: Ahhhh, balle, Olempeek!!!
...I walk into the Olempeek Stadium and can’t help but shiver as this was the main venue where the Taliban executed people during their bizarre and brutal reign of terror. Now it’s a place where 16-18 year old girls can run around in T-shirts and box....We had them sparring in pairs and I instantly saw that those ferocious little tigers are ready to get into the ring.

On October 17th, I formally started work with Peace Dividend Trust and learned that my first responsibility was going to be setting up a small Call Center to update our Afghanistan Procurement Directory ... [Through] luck and a very good Afghan colleague with a wide range of networks... we found a fantastic hidden market in a rural village outside of Mazar where women under burqa were directly selling embroidered wall hangings (called “sozanni”) to Turkish traders. We learned that village-based women can sell their work in women-oriented embroidery buying and selling markets off main thoroughfares. Urban women can sell products on streetfronts. All of these women are able to function in public because the culture has opened up “gendered space” in which they are free to do business – and where men that are not directly involved in the business transactions are tacitly forbidden to enter. Women do not work alongside men in public bazaars but rather inhabit specific markets, isolated government-owned retail space, or at the bottom of the social ladder – on the ground in front of sidewalks. After the dark years of home confinement during the Taliban times, it was at least encouraging to see them out there.

What kids can do! Read about 9-year-old Doukhobor girl Alaina Podmorow and her Little Women work in Afghanistan, the story of Ryan's Well, and Free the Children's Craig Kielburger.

More: the Sep 2009 Globe and Mail "Behind the Veil" reports and videos with Afghan women, and its Mar 2009 issue Talking to the Taliban.

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