Courage and risk

My Afghan/American friend Razia Jan has expanded her Afghan school for girls, graduated the first class, kept a few young women from being married off to men my age, and is now forging forward with a community college aimed at bringing Afghan women into the productive economy. You’d think it would be an obvious calculation: more family income, more employ, more taxes, more development and more happiness. But in Afghanistan nothing is simple.

Beth Murphy produced a new documentary about Razia’s school. It took her 6 years. Once you see it you can see why – it takes a tremendous amount of time to  build the kind of trust that is needed to be able to film very intimate scenes inside the homes of some of the students and teachers. The documentary has been airing on public television. I took advantage of Razia being in the area on one of her many successful fundraising sweeps through the US, by contributing to a fundraiser in Concord (MA). A certain level of contribution allowed me to spend some quality time with Razia jan over dinner and get to watch the documentary in a private screening.

The film gives one perspective: where else does the head teacher have to drink a cup of water from the well every morning to make sure the well is not poisoned? She comments, ‘better just me being poisoned than 400 girls.’ It gives a new meaning to passion and commitment. The constant threats and risks require enormous effort and patience to make sure that the elders in the community play their part in safeguarding the girls and the entire idea of the school.

There is a request for me from my colleagues in Afghanistan to come out and work with midwives. I am of two minds as the news coming out of Afghanistan is not very encouraging. But then again, it never has. I think of Razia jan and her girls, her teachers, and the daily acts of courage they display. They too have a choice. They choose the path less traveled. It is risky, everything in Afghanistan is risky.

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