by Anne Richter
Pax Christi Florida
Yes, I’m on my way home from a great trip to Afghanistan to conduct a Training of Trainers (TOT) workshop to Afghan midwives. This visit I was so happy to be accompanied by an old friend, Mariam. We met in Kabul in 1976 when she was Director of Nurses for the country and I was working on a project to train young woman from rural areas in midwifery. After the Russian invasion she and her family had to leave the country. They eventually settled in North Carolina where they raised their children to be doctors and engineers. We have kept up over the years, and I thought that Mariam would be the perfect person to help facilitate our training workshop and she was. So, we have had a great time catching up these past couple of weeks.
Kabul has grown immensely these past few years. New apartment houses, hotels, and shops have grown up throughout the city. People are sweeping the streets and trying to do the best with the drainage system. Though I rarely saw an accident, the crowded streets provide a daily driving adventure. We have been under tight security and not allowed to travel, except to our work sites. Our pocket buddies have a GPS, so they know where we are at all times. We did meet some people at our hotel who did travel around outside Kabul without any problems. Most nights there were a few small explosions without injuries that were attributed to the Taliban. There is lots of activities on the streets of Kabul, mostly men are walking around, children going to school, but only rarely do you see a western foreigner on the street.
The workshops went well, the first week we worked on training the facilitators and the second week they taught three groups of midwives from rural areas. Some of the midwives really blossomed in the second week. One midwife who was so shy that she could not stand and introduce herself in the beginning, said, “You have given me confidence,” she was amazing to see and hear from them on.
On the last day, I attended the 10th congress on the Afghan Midwives Association (AMA). As I helped found this association in 2004, I was thrilled to see the progress they had made. Many of the hopes and dreams of those days have become a reality. They now have a basic midwifery program at the university and a bridge program for experienced to study for a B.S. The 300 members in 2004 have grown from 300 to over 3,000 with chapters in every province. The maternal mortality has decreased and the number of women being attended by a skilled health provider has greatly increased. The strong leadership of the association has really been the driving force of these achievements.
Home: Yes, I have arrived home. You know how life is, sad to leave, but happy to be home.
Do keep the women and midwives of Afghanistan in your prayers, they have been through hard times. These coming years of transition are precarious.