Lilia and Women in Kabul, Afghanistan 2007

This International Women’s Day Global Exchange commemorates our 10 Year Anniversary of building people-to-people ties in Afghanistan. Last year marked the 10th year of US involvement  in Afghanistan and US foreign policy promoted us to think how we could educate and advocate against US militarism and occupation. Thus in 2002, in response to the popular justification that we were at war “for the women of Afghanistan”, Reality Tours decided to create delegations so our members could see reality on the ground for ourselves. Our “Women Building A Nation” was born; the first solidarity gender focused delegation included women who had left Afghanistan in the 1980s when the Soviet Union invaded, US women interested in women’s development and micro-finance, a concert producer and a celebrity, all committed to spread the word after they returned.

Laura & the Carpet Dealer in Kabul, 2004

As we honor a decade of relationship building, friendship and learning and while we recommit ourselves to work for peace. We thank our program officer Najib whose energy, intelligence, humor and commitment continue to inspire us and our primary partner organization Afghans4Tomorrow who continue to build awareness and grassroots community development projects. Over the next few weeks we will highlight a few of our past participants thoughts.

Today we feature Asma Nazihi Eschen, a recent delegate and Co-Founder of Bare Root Tree Project for Afghanistan,

I had the best experience in Afghanistan when I participated in the Global Exchange Reality Tour.  The tour was organized for a group of 9 people to see and meet different entities, from high government officials to grassroots NGO that are working in Afghanistan to improve the lives of those living in this war torn country. Najib our tour leader was one of the best persons that I have ever met. He made sure that we were safe, comfortable, and that we could see and do all the things that we requested of him. Everything was incredible; from seeing the RCR hospital and meeting with Masooda Jalilie, the Women’s Affairs Minister, to exchanging with the students of Ashuina (street children’s school) and attending the reopening of the Kabul University for Women. 

Najib, also gave us a tour of an old village north of Kabul that had not suffered physical damage by the civil war or the Taliban. This was truly an experience to see how this Afghan community had lived without being physically impacted by war and  the foreign hands that has affected the psyche of most Afghans in Kabul. Traveling in Afghanistan is safe and Najib knows how to work with both his GX delegates and the locals to make sure all parties have the best exchanges so the experience will be in the fabric of one’s mind to remember for life. Najib has great sense of humor that soften the harsh realities that were sometimes too difficult for us Westerners to bare them. I’m very grateful for Global Exchange’s Reality Tours that gives people like me an opportunity to travel places that most of us to scared to go by ourselves, or even to scared to think about going there. Continue organizing the Reality Tours for us because it opens our hearts and minds to the world and its people. 

To all our alumni like Asma, we thank you for your commitment to citizen diplomacy and dialogue with the Afghan people. Are you ready to  join us?