We have been trying for several months to catch up with Sunita Viswanath, one of the co-founders, of Women for Afghan Women (WAW) and today was the day for that call. Since we last spoke they have been extremely busy lobbying, educating and helping Afghan women both here in the United States and Afghanistan. This isn’t our first blog about her organization but they continue to do such impressive work we just had to give everyone at update. As you may remember, we met WAW in New York City a couple of years ago when we first started researching our play and they have been our friends ever since. They’re, in our opinion, a great example of what a few dedicated people can do to change many people’s lives. Working from a small house in Queens with minimal staff (at that time just 3 in NYC) they have been committed to helping Afghan women and girls who have found themselves in abusive relationships or situations both here in the United States and in Afghanistan. They are one of only two such organizations in the entire U.S. doing this type of work. That would be impressive enough but add to this the work they do to provide shelters to women in the most dangerous regions of Afghanistan and they become remarkable. Operating a total of eight shelters in Kabul, Kapisa, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kunduz, Faryab, Badakhsan and Saripul, they provide a safe harbor to women who are in danger of being murdered for shaming the family, women and girls who have been sold or “paid” to other families as restitution for crimes and girls forced into marriage or forbidden to marry someone they love.
So time for the update. Although Afghanistan is still ranked as the worst place in the world to be a women, and violence at the hands of the Taliban continue to increase, WAW has managed to not only keep their eight shelters open and operating but they have plans to open three more shelters in the future. With the help of grant money from the U.S. State Department, they will be able to increase their reach and influence. They are also working closely with UN Women in Kabul. For all their progress and success, Sunita is quick to remind us how dire things have become for the women of this troubled country. Their local staff (of over 400) risk their lives to help others. She is planning a trip to Afghanistan in the near future and hopes to be able to visit all the shelters but it may just be too unsafe to visit them all. So their work goes on, hoping that we (Americans) do not forget or abandon these women. Despite seemly overwhelming odds, this “little engine that could” continues to do the work so vital to the survival of women in this community. We couldn’t be more proud to know them and help spread the word of all the good they are doing.
For more information about Women for Afghan Women please visit their site at: