Inauguration of Kapisa Family Guidance Center
We opened the third Family Guidance Center (FGC) in Kapisa city on Feb. 19th, an event that lasted a packed 4 hours and included speeches by the provincial governor and a chubby, bearded mullah, who spoke for 10 minutes on women’s rights—including an afterthought on his happy marriage to his wife, who is his good friend. More on this later. First, Kapisa itself.
Since it’s the capital of the province called Kapisa, I pictured a small city, much smaller than Herat and Mazar, of course, but along those lines. We set off around 7am and drove for an hour and a half, 5 of us in one car: the driver, Manizha, Halim, who is the FGC financial officer and always wears Afghan clothes (the shalwar chemise), Moojtari, a sassy FGC lawyer all decked out in a suit and 5” high leather boots from NYC, and me. A larger group from the FGC were also on their way in our van. We drove north for about an hour, finally leaving behind all signs of urban life, slowly heading into farmland that’s a carbon copy of my idea of 12th century Europe. I could see that the area is lush with vegetation in spring and summer, but this was mid-winter. So the fields were mud brown. So were the tiny mud-baked, igloo-like houses, mostly hidden behind mud baked walls. Beige close-ups, beige panoramas.
We got off the highway and onto mud roads, winding past groups of shops, tin shipping containers bolted to each other in long lines, the wares hanging inside and out: fruit, vegetables, clothes, oil cans, hubcaps, tires, brooms, plastic buckets, generators, until we reached a great clearing. Scattered around at random and perched importantly on top of a slight incline were about ten new buildings identified as government offices. Except for cars parked in great pools of mud, that was it. Totally, completely it. This is Kapisa, Manizha informed me. The entire city? I asked. Yup, she deadpanned.
We alighted into the chilly rain, entered the largest building and shuffled in our socks into a rectangular meeting room—maybe 100 ft. long—stuffed to its walls by an impressive formal conference table and double rows of chairs—maybe 100—upholstered in black leather. The Security Council itself could meet there. There were lots of people inside, not exactly milling around because the furniture took up so much room you couldn’t really mill. A couple of men were trying to hang WAW banners in the area in the front reserved for speakers and VIPs. We watched them for a while and then shuffled out. Back into the rain and the waiting cars and off through this wilderness of mud to the FGC and another surprise.
Across from the local police station (and many armed guards) and behind the mud walls, sat three one-story buildings with fancy doors and scrolled window frames, looking like they know they’re the prettiest buildings in “town”, the only pretty buildings in town. Inside are many offices, new office furniture, 2 computers, red striped rugs, all put together by the FGC irreplaceable logistics officer Daoud. Back out, into the cars, off to the shelter, which had been built for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs by a US Provincial Reconstruction Team and then turned over to WAW. Back out, back into the cars, back to the FGC office for a breakfast of bread, sweet rolls, and platters of fried eggs produced by free-range chickens. These eggs are pure, Halim told me. But I knew that already because they tasted like eggs. Then back to the meeting room to await the arrival of all the guests and the dignitaries.
The master of ceremonies, a staff member from the local office of women’s affairs, read from the Koran, and a counselor from the Kabul center sang a passage from the Koran in a mighty voice–like a cantor in a synagogue only she was a woman (highly unusual in Afghanistan)—and finally the governor and then the mullah. We have everything on video and will have their long speeches translated and posted on the website, but what you really need to know before then is the gist of the mullah’s remarks: human rights belong to women as well as men. God gave women human rights, but men took them away. He urged women to fight to get them back.
A few more speeches and, finally, at noon, everyone piled into cars and drove through now freezing rain back to the office first and then shelter where the governor cut ribbons and the mullah blessed our new facility. That was the peak. It brought me to tears. A remarkable achievement in less than 2 years.
A prepared lunch in another government building: platters of kabuli rice seasoned with meat, raisons, carrots, more meat stewed in gravy, salad, fruit, bread. We sat with the governor and mullah. I’m staying with you until the end, the governor told us, in case we didn’t realize how rarely he bestows such an honor, especially on a woman’s organization. And he kept his promise. We learned that opium production is very low in Kapisa, that there’s no industry there, that most people don’t earn a living but do subsistence farming: wheat, corn, rice. Have you ever been to New York, I asked him. No, he said. By the time I get there, I’ll be in a rest home….I’m older than you, I told him. I’ll get there first and I’ll wait for you.
Board Member, WAW
February 19th, 2009