Young talent

The young woman who opened the workshop on the establishment of a nursing and midwifery council in Afghanistan, on behalf of the Afghan midwives association, was the same woman who I met a little over 3 years ago in Bangladesh at a conference that we both attended.

We became friends, not just on facebook. Over lunch at her house, just over two years ago in Kabul, we talked about personal vision and I demonstrated how to use the challenge model that we introduce in our leadership courses – a heuristic device to get from the big ‘why am I here?’ question to the establishment of a short term goal and then eventually, after having analyzed what’s in the way and what to do about it, to ‘what am I going to do tomorrow?’

Sitting on the ground we filled in the model. Her short term goal was to get an MPH and the obstacles where many, as one would expect for a young Afghan woman.

Now, only a couple of years later, she is the president of the midwives association, has an MPH in her pocket and some UN consultancies on her resume. If anyone would have foretold her future to be like this she would have laughed. She charted her course that afternoon and then went to work.

The workshop at which she spoke took place in the ministry’s auditorium which was built decades ago has been poorly maintained. It is now old and decrepit with 20 aircos attached to the wall at various places and none working – in fact a good part of the time there was no electricity either and we sat in hot semi-darkness. The heat is draining all one’s energy.

But it was another good Dari lesson as most speeches were in the local language and with the slide projector not working to show us the English slides we foreigners, only a few, were on our own. At least I didn’t have to sit on the stage which looked even hotter than where the rest of us were sitting.

In the afternoon we had our usual meeting with USAID where we pointed out that we will start close-down procedures in a few days if the no-cost extension is not signed. Everyone knows this is a doomsday scenario but we are contractually obliged (and also by Afghan labor law) to start these procedures. We hope they will shock the contract folks into finally signing the last pieces of paper so we can get on with our lives.

And so I will be one of the people who will receive the slip – I requested to be in the first batch which would put me back on American soil mid-September, a few weeks earlier than my original departure and a few weeks later than I had hoped.

A bunch of us went out to Babur Gardens tonight to see 14 short films by various young Afghan film makers and media companies. The restored harem (queen’s quarters) are spectacular and various screening rooms had been decked out with mattresses and cushions – probably in the way the place had been decked out 500 years ago.

The whole event was sponsored by the American embassy, something to be proud of. The sponsorship was not just for the development of young talent but also included unlimited cold water, juices, tea, and finger foods. Two of the films, which will all be shown on local TV over the next few weeks, were projected on a large screen outdoor in the cool night air. The rest of the films were screened inside.

After seeing another 4 films in a row in a hot and stuffy room I had seen enough as each film started to merge with the next and I couldn’t tell them apart anymore. That’s when everyone else was also ready to go home. I would have liked to see the other films at well but not all at once. Ariana TV will show them one evening a week for the next 7 weeks. I think I may watch them from the comfort of an air-conditioned room.

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