Sahar Speaks! to launch training and mentoring program for Afghan female journalists
In Afghanistan’s choosing of a new president, a whiff of hope emerged for the country’s long-suffering women. Results are due May 14, when one of the five serious contenders is expected to win, ending the 12-year presidency of Hamid Karzai, who is bound by the constitution to step down.
Though none of the contestants are female, women have become part of the political fabric like never before. The campaign has produced a female vice presidential hopeful (Habiba Sarobi), an outspoken and rallying potential First Lady (Rula Ghani) and the largest number of women ever – some 300 -- running for provincial seats.
This is good news, especially in light of the drawdown of U.S.-led troops by the end of this year, which many fear will spur a security vacuum.
More female participation is also positive for the local media, a veritable success story of the world’s intervention in Afghanistan. As a reporter in Kabul for almost two years, I was impressed by Afghanistan’s lively and relatively free press corps. It has steadily thrived since the Taliban was ousted from power 13 years ago. Today the country has 9,000 local journalists. For a country of 30 million, this is a lot – around the same press saturation as here in the United States. Of these, about 2,000 are women.
However, I was shocked when I learned that not a single Afghan female journalist worked for the foreign news outlets in Afghanistan. Not the New York Times, nor the BBC, nor my own organization, Reuters. The list goes on. I found the widespread lack of Afghan female reporters a systemic failure by the international press. As a result, stories by Afghan female reporters stay within the region and get limited global attention. The world hears and reads about Afghan women’s lives and communities through reporting by Afghan men, foreign men, and foreign women.
I want to fix this. Over the past year, as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford, I developed Sahar Speaks! Divided into three stages, Afghan female reporters will receive training, mentoring, and content publishing opportunities.
Together with the International Women’s Media Foundation in Washington, D.C., we are seeking funding for the program, which we hope to get off the ground in 2014. Beginning in Kabul, we plan to extend to other regions, pending on funding. Sahar Speaks! will serve as a replicable model, set a new standard for reporting out of the country, provide new confidence and skills, and encourage foreign news outlets to step up and employ Afghan female reporters. – therefore telling a more accurate story.
Since the Taliban was toppled in late 2001, Afghan women’s rights have dramatically improved, winning back access to work and education.
However, such hard-fought gains lay on shaky ground. Murders of high-profile women are on the rise, a law eliminating violence against women failed to become permanent, and parliament recently sought to exonerate perpetrators of domestic violence.
It is vital that we hear Afghan women’s stories, as reported by them.
Like other marginalized groups, Afghan women need our investment and our time.
Guest blogger Amie Ferris-Rotman is a John S. Knight Journalism fellow at Stanford University. Previously, she was senior correspondent for Reuters in Afghanistan.
A Voice of Hope
In 2002, the Taliban were removed from power, international organizations were moving into Afghanistan, and 16-year-old Manizha Wafeq wanted to work.
Afghan Girls in Global Robotics Competition are Afghanistan’s Future
Over 160 teams are competing this year in the FIRST Global robotics challenge, and Afghanistan’s team has overcome a number of obstacles to be a part of the competition.
The Year in Review: The Bush Institute's Global Impact
The George W. Bush Institute marched forward in 2016 toward its goals of developing leaders, advancing policy, and taking action to solve today's most pressing challenges. The year also saw Kenneth Hersh become president and CEO of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, as his predecessor, Margaret Spellings, departed to head the University of North Carolina System. As we look back over 2016, here are five top moments from the Bush Institute's Global Leadership Impact Center, which houses the Human Freedom Initiative, the Women's Initiative, and our global health initiative through our affiliate Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon. Bush Institute Releases We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope Book The book launched with an event at the Bush Center featuring a poignant conversation between Mrs. Bush and Razia Jan, who is featured in the book, moderated by Greta Van Susteren. Mrs. Bush promoted the book with a media tour throughout March, including interviews with the TODAY show and Glamour&
“Voice of Hope” Dr. Sakeena Yacoobi Awarded 2017 Sunhak Peace Prize
Dr. Sakeena Yacoobi, founder and executive director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) and one of 29 inspiring individuals featured in the Bush Institute’s book, We are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope, has been selected for the 2017 Sunhak Peace Prize for her more than 20 years of work as an educator and humanitarian. The Sunhak Peace Prize was established to honor individuals who make significant contributions to address worldwide suffering, conflict, poverty, and threats to the environment by promoting a comprehensive, future-oriented vision of peace. In Afghanistan, Dr. Yacoobi has done just that. After the Taliban closed girls’ schools in the 1990s, Dr. Yacoobi’s AIL supported 80 underground home schools for 3,000 girls. Today, the organization rebuilds education and health systems in Afghanistan as well as provides emergency and legal aid. Seventy percent of AIL’s beneficiaries are women, and the organization is run mainly by female leadership. In ad