Back to the newslist
04 May 2016

Medica Afghanistan and medica mondiale: Planning together and enhancing solidarity

Exchange and mutual learning creates synergies and helps to achieve broader impacts. This was the rationale for a meeting between staff of medica mondiale and Medica Afghanistan in February 2016 in the city of Vadodara, western India. The specific reason for this journey was to plan a new joint project* intended to expand the provision of stress- and trauma-sensitive advice in Afghanistan. Another aim was to enhance solidarity between the two organisations by taking part in workshops and joint actions.

Locally, the meeting was supported by the Indian women's rights organisation OLAKH, with whom a close friendship has existed for years. This created a very special and dynamic meeting of cultures, with plenty of motivation and inspiration (and dancing, too) for all involved.

Interview with project officers

Project Officer for Afghanistan, Claudia Söder (CS), and Finance Officer, Maren Erb (ME), tell us what they experienced.

What results did you bring back from the project planning workshop?

CS: As part of a project that we are developing together with Medica Afghanistan, we want to expand the psychosocial advice provided in Kabul, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif. In the long term, we want to train more specialists to provide a stress- and trauma-sensitive approach. In order to enable the specialists to perform their work as well as possible, we considered which changes are necessary in the country in order to provide the best support to women and girls affected by violence. And also, what has to occur in the long term to bring the violence to a complete end.

ME: For this it was important to hear what the workers have to say who are in contact every day with those affected, and who are most familiar with and can best assess the political and societal conditions in the country. This is why we met with a team of staff members from Medica Afghanistan. They came to India to talk with us about the aims and impacts of their work and this helps us to design our support to have the most impact.

Why did the meeting take place in India?

CS: In 2015, the security situation for women in Afghanistan deteriorated severely. So we had to cancel many of our business trips to the country. This meant we needed a training facility outside the country if we were to make the necessary progress with our work, and Vadodara was an obvious choice because it is easy to reach from Afghanistan and because we have local contacts there in the women's rights organisation OLAKH.

ME: The managing director Nimisha Desai and her staff at OLAKH supported us in a wonderful way. They organised seminar rooms, booked accommodation and invited us to take part in some of their current actions. German and Afghan colleagues joined in a demonstration for the campaign "One Billion Rising" and participated in a workshop on gender, violence and feminism.

On February 14, as part of the "One Billion Rising" campaign, in Vadodara you demonstrated publicly for women's rights. How would you describe this experience?

ME: The action fitted into the programme very well, since we wanted to share personal experiences and enhance our interpersonal contact anyway, in addition to the more formal project planning. We started by painting placards together. During the demonstration we then encouraged each other to call out and dance for our demands regarding an end to violence against women. It was an inspiring experience for the Afghan women, too. Something like that would not be possible at home.

CS: Many people stopped to watch and took away flyers. Including men. At a crossroads, activists performed a piece of theatre on the issue of violence. This led to many people staring so hard they forgot to drive on. Men also joined in with our group. And there are male volunteers at OLAKH.

What did you learn during the gender training given by OLAKH?

ME: The workshop had the aim of making visible political and cultural patterns which shape the role of women in our societies. Each participant, male and female, shared their experience of this issue. This greatly improved our understanding of the living conditions and views of our colleagues. As the Finance Officer for Afghanistan at medica mondiale, I see numbers much more often than I see the worlds that others live in. In the workshop it became clear to me how the misogynist conditions in Afghanistan make it unthinkable for the majority of women there to drive a car alone or to have a child outside of marriage, for example. Nonetheless, they speak out every day to demand their rights, accepting the risk of hostilities, violence and suppression that comes with this. I found that very impressive.

What comes next?

CS: In our team we will evaluate the results of the project planning workshop together. Then we can design the project and organise the funding.

ME: Additionally, our everyday working life will also be influenced by the intensive time we spent talking with our colleagues from Afghanistan and the solidarity we experienced with OLAKH. They are so strong in their efforts to create a non-violent world. I am certain: Together we can achieve change.