|Afghan Women in Rezai's Literacy Class (http://www.unmultimedia.org)|
The Bamyan province of Afghanistan is home to two historic sites: the two famous giant Buddhas that were destroyed by the Taliban, and the first national park of Band-i-Amir. Despite this, the Bamyan province is isolated, with no paved roads to or from neighboring provinces. There are no tracks for vehicles, and thousands of refugees are living in camps without a basic infrastructure. They had dirt roads that were washed out every time it rained. These were the conditions that Zainab Rezai found when she came to work as a midwife and a teacher.
When she first arrived at the village, the roads had been washed out by a flood. She tried to convince the men of the village to rebuild the road, but they laughed at her idealism. She refused to give up, and began speaking to the women in her literacy program, who all agreed that something had to be done about the roads. She enlisted the help of seventy women, and they set out with shovels, hoes, and a pushcart. When the men saw the women carry sand to rebuild the road, they tried to stop them by telling them that they were dishonoring the men. The women replied that they were only trying to build their settlement, and they refused to stop. Nearby was a Korean settlement, and the men were repairing the road to Bamiyan Kawlang. When they saw the women working on the road, they brought their equipment, bulldozers, rollers, and water trucks, and helped the women finish repairing the road. The road now serves more than 350 families, especially when they need to reach a hospital.
After her success building the road, Zainab Rezai began realizing that she could help the people of the Bamyan province. The people had no access to clean water, their health was in serious danger, and most of the women were illiterate. In addition to her literacy classes, she has implemented more than 20 projects, including a sanitation and solar power project for the settlement. The women in Afghanistan usually never leave their homes to work, but she believes that women play an important role in society. She believes that education is the key, and estimates that she has helped more than 200 women become literate. Several non-governmental organizations took interest in her efforts, and there are now hygiene classes, literacy classes, and computer and science classes for women and girls.
Rezai says, “One thing that our people in Afghanistan need to know is that men and women both have to work hard to make this country a place, where there will be no more war and no one will be a victim. Men and women must try together. If they separate the women, and don't allow them to work, or keep the same thought process and beliefs that they had in the past, then I don't think there will ever be a real victory in Afghanistan.”