Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A big bowl of "Oatmeal" : A Story from Afghanistan

Last night before bed, I sat with my six year old son who is learning to read in Kindergarten.  As he cuddled up, together we read the childhood story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  This morning I read another story that was filling, not too hot and not too cold.  It was "just right."  This is the story of a physician whose efforts have acted as an amazing catalyst in Afghanistan, becoming a leading authority on health care for Afghan women and human rights.

In 1989, Dr. Sima Samar established the Shuhada Organization which now operates medical clinics, schools and shelters for vulnerable women. What strikes me most is the catalyzing effect that began with one woman...and the story now includes the AIHRC, Afghan Human Rights Commission.
Dr. Sumar graduated from Kabul University Medical College in 1982. She practiced medicine at a government hospital in Kabul, but after a few months, was forced to flee for her safety to her native Jaghori, where she provided medical treatment to patients throughout the remote areas of Central Afghanistan. In 1984, she fled to Pakistan. After working as a doctor at the refugee branch of the Mission Hospital and distressed by the total lack of health care facilities for Afghan refugee women, she started a hospital for Afghan refugee women and children in Quetta.
Shuhada Clinic operates 6 clinics and 3 hospitals in Afghanistan, all dedicated to the provision of health care to Afghan women and girls. These health facilities provide services in Bamyan, Ghazni, Ghor, Wardak, and Kabul provinces. In addition, the Shuhada Organization runs nurse, community health worker and traditional birth attendant training programs and reproductive health education projects. The organization opened a Science Institute in Pakistan in 2001 to train young women and men as physician assistants, science teachers, and emergency medical technicians.

Dr. Samar also has been a leader for education for Afghan women and girls. The Shuhada Organization operates 71 schools for girls and boys in Afghanistan and 3 schools for Afghan refugees in Quetta, Pakistan. During the Taliban regime, Shuhada’s schools in Central Afghanistan were among the few academic girls’ primary schools; the organization’s girls’ high schools were the only high schools that girls were able to attend in the country. The Shuhada Organization also ran underground home school classes for girls in Kabul. Following the collapse of the Taliban, these home school classes became the basis for two above ground schools for girls that now teach 800 students and handed over to the government. In addition, the Shuhada Organization runs English and computer courses, income generation, and adult literacy programs for women in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Shuhada Organization also has established shelters for vulnerable women in Afghanistan. The shelters provide a safe living and learning environment for women who have no guardians, are at risk for violence, are poor, and are not able to earn a living. The goal is to provide these women and their children not only with shelter and food, but also with opportunities for education and training so that they can have better lives and eventually be able to support themselves.

And so, just like Goldilocks, I ate this all this information up this morning.  And it was "just right."  Wow.  It took very tiny font and lots of words to tell her biography but the program and affiliation pages were so packed with details, I sat stunned by the ripple effect of her efforts.  What a tremendous role model and encouragement to keep on shoveling!