It has taken a while to write this because I couldn’t quite find the words to talk about the remarkable women I met at both centers. Before leaving for this trip I had heard how horrific it can be for women in Afghanistan and thought I was properly prepared for what I was going to experience and the women I would meet. What I have learned is that no matter what you read or see on the news, nothing prepares you for meeting survivors firsthand. I am constantly amazed at their strength, courage and humanity. I had the unique opportunity, thanks to Women for Afghan Women, to interview a young woman at their Women’s Shelter. She had just been reunited with her two young children after being separate from them for over one year. She left her husband because his brother was sexually assaulting her. When her husband and family wouldn’t step in to stop the abuse, she ran away. She was unable to take her children and once she settled at WAW’s Kabul Shelter, her husband refused to allow her to see or have custody of the children. Women for Afghan Women provided a lawyer to negotiate with her family and although it took over a year, she was finally reunited with her children. The joy she was feeling the day we met with her was really heartwarming. She couldn’t stop looking, hugging and touching her children as we were doing the interview. At one point during our interview, the children became a little restless so she reached under her bed and pulled out a very small suitcase and opened it. Inside were all her worldly possessions, neatly arranged. From between a few headscarves, she removed a small package of biscuits or crackers. There were only 4 left in the package. She took one and broke it into two pieces to give to her children. She then turned to us and offered us the last three biscuits. We had only met her about 10 minutes earlier and yet she was willing to give strangers something that was clearly very precious to her. On the surface, you would say that this woman had nothing. She had spent over a year living in a shelter fighting for her children. She shared a room with three other women, did not have a job or family to return to and yet she had not lost her humanity. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would be so generous if in her position.
This week was filled with so many special and life affirming moments. Women who would be justified in giving up somehow find the courage to go on. They not only survive but also find ways to thrive. The human spirit is truly remarkable.