Farkhunda Trust First Annual Lecture

The Farkhunda Trust held its First Annual Lecture at the House of Commons on November 23rd.

Speakers included Rahela Sidiqi (Women’s Higher Education & The Farkhanda Trust); Christine Chinkin (Women’s Education and Security); Baroness Frances D’Souza ( Why We Must Continue Our Work in Afghanistan; HE The Ambassador of Afghanistan to the UK, Said Tayeb Jawad ( Women’s Education and Security in Afghanistan ); Qari Zemarai Babrak ( Why to support Farkhunda Trust ).

The event was opened by Samantha Knights and closed by Interim Chair of the Farkhunda Trust, Kamini Paul.


Statistics of Women higher education

  • In 2002, right after the Taliban fell, there were only 1,564 female students in universities. 
  • In 2016 out of 53,385 students enrolment at state universities only 11,853 or 22% were female. 
  • In total today, there are about 64000 or 21% young women attending university and only 14% of all faculty members are women. 
  • This shows great progress but we still have a long way to go to even get to where we were in 1990. Before the Taliban came, 40 percent of those in higher education were women, and 70 present of all teachers were women. 
  • The increase number of female student between 2014 and 2016 were 18.6% 

General statistics on Women Status and Employment 

  • 580 scholarships for graduate and undergraduate inside and outside Afghanistan and in Asian countries 
  • There are 35% women have master degree and 1.4% PHD
  • Total number of university students by 2016 was 300,344 students out of which state university students were 171, 609 with 36,362 female students – 21% and 135,247 male students -79%. But female higher education some times is overly reported.
  • Private university students were 128,735 students out of which 27,612 – 21% female’s students and 101,125 male students and 79%.
  • There are 601 faculty 222 state faculty and 378 private faculty in total and 145 Universities 36 state universities and 109 private universities
  • 5% of primary female students complete higher education and in 2014 90% of women were illiterate.
  • 22% of civil servants are female, 2% in security forces, 8% in justice, 27% in lower house and 19% in upper house. 2 women in cabin. 9 Deputy Minister and 4 female Ambassadors.
  • 78 % women face one type of violence and 50% get married at age of 15


Budget used for Education

In 2011, 2% of on budget used for education

Afghanistan Population in 2015 and issues

  • 6 million 14 million women and 20 million live in rural area. 8.6 million live in urban area.
  • Life expectancy is 44 years
  • Child mortality is 154/1000. More then 11 million live with less than $1.24 per day.

Recourses Issues:

Not enough funds to increase female faculties, 100 girls are in same class. Insecurity, lack of electricity, no enough hostel for female students, No guest lecture and lack of financial resources to enable women to use transport and get food. Education quality is poor. 50% of lecturers are bachelors and use mainly old teaching methods. Inadequate autonomy for higher institution. Demand and supply challenges, due to poor education quality. No adequate sanitary for female students in university campus. 2016 survey indicated that only 37% of population believe equal right for women access to education, 40% of college and university female students have mental health and posttraumatic stress.

Source: www.cso.gov.af, https://preserve.lehigh.edu/, https://centralasiainstitute.org, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org, http://beijing20.unwomen.org/en/about


Oxford platform for girls education advocate


Farkhunda Trust founder Rahela Sadiqi joined a panel of speakers in Oxford on November 20th to discuss the impact of aid on development in Afghanistan – and the vital importance of education for girls.

At the invitation of the Oxford International Relations Society she joined Dr Michael Ryde and journalist Bahar Joya in a discussion chaired by Professor Sue Doran.

After the main event the audience of students and supporters at St Benet’s Hall, St Giles had an opportunity to meet Ms Sidiqi and learn more about the life changing impact of the Farkhunda Trust which was set up in memory of Farkhunda Malikzada, whose brutal murder on the streets of Kabul in 2015 shocked the world. Its mission is to provide scholarships to women from disadvantaged backgrounds to enable them to pursue higher education and, ultimately, to contribute to shaping a progressive Afghan society.

PICTURE SHOWS: Rahela Sidiqi and Oxford  student Malala Yousafzai.

Extracts from Rahela Sidiqi’s speech follows:  “I believe that if we do things better, and especially pay closer attention to the culture of change towards development – that is the institutional and behaviour  incentives towards change – and alignment with Afghan Government priorities, we will set ourselves on a path towards a self-sufficient Afghanistan that will be a net contributor to peace and security.

Let me explain. Any country that has experienced the levels of destruction and conflict that Afghanistan has needs support. But this support must be defined together with the international community and must be based on the priorities and deep engagement of Afghans themselves.

For far too long, the nature of development has been donor-driven with Afghans in the backseat.

Moreover, the scores of technical assistants provided to the government – while good intentioned – has often leeched capacity rather than built Afghan capacity. I believe that these two factors are key to why we have seen such a weak impact on Afghanistan development strategy despite all the money provided.

Let me give you some figures. For instance, there has been little on-budget aid investment in education, institutional building, and infrastructure development. For example, in 2013, 82% of international aid was used outside Afghanistan system and 70% of aid was used for security force in 2011. While it is important to strengthen security forces, it is not sufficient. Peace and security will come with tangible improvement in people’s lives. And that will not happen if we spend 18% (Social Protection1%, Education 2%, Private sector 2% Health 4%, Agriculture 5%) for the rest of sectors. Today, however, we have a real opportunity to change things and set the course right.”

She reminded the audience that Afghanistan had a Government in place and – in spite of all its challenges –  a reform vision to bring self-sufficiency to the country by 2025.

“Let me quickly state its main five objectives:

  • FIRST, to increase Government ownership in the development, coordination and administration of aid.
  • SECOND, to strengthen economic management through increased development assistant via on budget aid.
  • THIRD, to better coordinate off budget flow from international donors and partners
  • FOURTH, to operationalise the commitment to aid effectiveness within the Tokyo Framework through a process of mutual accountability.
  • FIFTH to increase transparency and accountability with the Afghan Government and development partners.

Reform will take a long time to take root and may spark violence in the interim as vested interests are threatened, but we have another opportunity here that we can leverage. This second opportunity is the new generation of Afghan leaders, who are more educated and connected with more global outlooks than the previous generation who monopolise power.

In this new government,  several hundred young people under the age of 40 have been appointed to positions of power. And many of them are also young women working in the Office of the Presidency and across ministries.   I cannot overstate the importance of this new generation. These young people in government are dynamic, creative, more open to taking risks and trying new ideas, and ready to challenge the corrupt structures that be. But they need our support and commitment.

The third is how the most successful, programs – that have been internationally acclaimed – were the family of National Programs designed and implemented by the Government, with clear rules and responsibilities with funding from development partners, where the Government sets policy, and where NGOs or private sector provides service delivery within clear and fair parameters. These include the National Health Program which resulted from a collaboration between WB, USAID, EU on one clear framework; and the National Solidarity Program now Citizens Charter which I had the privilege to serve on as one of the core founder — which gave block grants to 34,000 villages and where communities themselves managed the grants. The next phase of this program under Citizen Charter is to integrate the village level to ensure the villages can demand and hold accountable the government ministries to provide them basic services.

Critical to increasing young women’s participation in government and  across all sectors of society is the role of higher education. Today, only 25% women succeed to enter to state university but the demand is at least four times more.

What are their challenges in access? Often, it is about accommodation, transport, food, – all of which keeps most young poor women out of schools and often marrying way too young. Many also have to support their families and thus do not have the time or energy to attend school.

We believe that a central reason that Afghanistan is one of the least developed countries is because of the marginalization of half the population – an entire gender. They are critical to development, to building the economy, strengthening their communities and keeping young marginalized boys from bad influences.

Today, we have a new opportunity. A national priority of the National Unity Government is empowering woman to their full potential. For the first time, we have an active first lady who is supporting young women.

And we at Farkhunda Trust are trying our best to do our part. We are a very young organisation and have only been in operation for 1.5 years. We were established   after the brutal killing of Farkhunda Malikzada. But we already have established MoUs with two  universities and are supporting 13 excellent young women from disadvantaged background; women who   without the support of our Trust, would not be able to attend university.

We believe women can be mothers  who  train their  children to use their vision for building Afghanistan and his nation rather hen join extremism. They could be the agent of change to bring moderate Islam and to value the women potential as their equal partner of development process.”

Rahela H. Sidiqi is the founder and UK Director of the Farkhunda Trust and is an Afghan women’s rights activist who was determined to improve the situation of women in Afghanistan following the tragic death of Farkhunda Malikzada.

Rahela has over 22 years of experience in managing programs such as emergency relief, conducting and organising management training, provision of policy papers, strategic plans and manuals for relevant project programs for government, the UN and the World Bank. She has founded two charities in Afghanistan and the UK and has provided leadership advice to the Chairman of the Civil Service Commission and other senior level leaders in Afghanistan. She is a reformist and anti-corruption activist at government and civil society levels. She has extensive experience in the area of organisation development participatory training, planning and management, project formulation, and monitoring and evaluation. She has strong experience in team building. She has an extensive background in the area of human rights, women’s rights advocacy, women and youth solidarity and coalition building. She works to build capacity in building partnerships in relation to relevant stakeholders. She works with the private sector, government, and local and international organisations.




Join 3K fun run to raise funds for Farkhunda Trust

Join the Farkhunda Trust with the support of Dr Walid Halimi, PhD student at Westminster University and a Farkhunda Trust Ambassador, in a 3K charity run for education. The money raised will support disadvantaged young women attain a higher education in Afghanistan in order to secure their future and support women’s rights in the country.

For further details see Eventbrite link HERE.


On Saturday the 14th of October, two groups of runners will partake in the 3K run: Group 1 will set off at 16:00 while Group 2 will begin at 17:00; there will be approximately 24 runners, all of whom will be wearing Farkhunda Trust t-shirts.

We kindly ask that attendees donate £7 or you can sponsor the runners for just £10.

If you cannot make it on the day, the runners appreciate any amount of donation to support Afghan women’s education.

This is a fun event meant for all ages and abilities, water as well as other refreshments and goodies will be available to purchase at the event. The run aims to bring people together who share the belief that educating women educates a nation. We hope to raise money for the Farkhunda Trust and heighten awareness on women’s access to higher education in Afghanistan. In order to achieve this, we ask that you sponsor the 5K runners. The minimum sponsorship amount is £10.

The location is TBD, but we are planning on Hyde Park. Stay tuned for more information on this.

How Your Money Helps

£700 pays university fees for one student/one year

£150 pays administration fees for one student/one year

£200 buys one laptop which is given to each FT scholar

£330 covers transportation and lunch for one student/one year

£120 pays for stationary, books and other school supplies for one student/one year

Afghan team on course for establishing population based cancer registries

A team from NCCP ( pictured) recently (28/8/17-2/9/17) attended the  Center For Cancer Epidemiology (CCE) affiliated to TATA Memorial Center (TMC) in Mumbai, India.

The Center for Cancer Epidemiology is the South Asian hub of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) for cancer registry.

While the NCCP (National Cancer Control Program) has been working on establishing the hospital based (HBCR), as well as populated based cancer registry (PBCR), it was the first formal training by an international organization for the NCCP staff. 


More images and full report available by clicking HERE.






Landmark visit marks start of collaboration to fight cancer

A team of seven from Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) made a five day visit to Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in Lahore recently (20/08/17).

They were joined by  two nurses and a physician who will be training at the hospital  for more than a month.

Dr Maihan Abduallah said,”I would kindly like you to join me in expressing my deep gratitude to Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital staff, especially Dr. Faisal Sultan, the Chief Executive Officer, and Dr. Aasim Yusuf, the Chief Medical Officer, for their warm hospitality. Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital provide the team with free accommodation in the hospital guest house,  plus food and refreshment and transportation. 

“I would also like to thank WHO (the World Health Organisation)  for sponsoring the travel expenses of four of the team members. Last but not the least, I am grateful to MoF, especially  Mr. Halemi Sahib, Director General of Budget, and Mr. Khesraw Mohmand, Head of Health sector for their continuous support of funding capacity building of National Cancer Control Program staff.

Pictured from left: Dr Faisal Sultan, CEO SKMCH & RC and Dr Maihan Abdullah, Head of Afghanistan’s National Cancer Control Programme, sign a Memorandum of Understanding – For full text click:  MOU


Afghanistan Day at Women & War Festival

Women & WarThe 2016 Women and War festival is a  month long multi-discipline festival documenting,exploring and giving voice to the experiences of women from across the centuries and the world before during and after war. Friday July 22nd is Afghanistan Day.

Full details and further information can be found at WOMEN & WAR  and  EVENTS.

Heidi-K-150x150Heidi Kingstone is a leading foreign correspondent and has written for some of the world’s foremost publications, covering stories on human rights issues, conflict and politics and reporting from places as diverse as Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Bangladesh, Mali, Darfur and the Middle East. Her first book, Dispatches from the Kabul Café, published by Advance Editions (2014) is a memoir of her time reporting from Afghanistan over a four year period, from 2007-2011. There will be actor read excerpts from her book, followed by an ‘In Conversation With’ session. www.heidikingstone.com. Also appearing the renowned author Ahmed Rashid.
This date is presented in association with the British and Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group (BAAG), a unique advocacy and networking agency which supports humanitarian and development programmes in Afghanistan. BAAG aims to ensure that Afghan voices are heard at national and international level. Music and talks from Afghan women will be presented, discussing, in their own words, both their experiences in Afghanistan, and those of having travelled to the UK as refugees. www.baag.org.uk


Festival explores experiences of women and war



JULY 4 – 31 2016


 Women and War is a month long festival examining the effect of warfare on women worldwide. Bringing together an extraordinary span of international work, and performers from all continents, the festival will showcase cutting-edge drama, comedy, dance, documentary film and photography, drawn from the United Kingdom, United States, Spain, Iran, and Uzbekistan. Across the centuries, from the Crimean War, to WWII, through to the current conflict in Syria, Women in War tells the profoundly personal and yet universal stories of the role of women in war and the impact upon them during and after conflict, whether subjugated or subversive, victim or healer, protector or fighter. Opening on July 4th, the festival will be held at Frederick’s Place – a historic building in the heart of the City.



 THE MARVELLOUS ADVENTURES OF MARY SEACOLE: Cleo Sylvestre stars as the Jamaican-Scottish women who set up her own field hospital in the Crimean War and was voted greatest Black Briton in 2004

MUNOJAT: Uzbekistan’s Orzu Arts Music and Dance presents a show based on classic and folkloric songs and dances from all over Central Asia. East Turkistan born singer/performer Rahima Mahmut joins for one night only to perform additional work.

NEPENTHE: An intense one-women show written by Rachel Neuburger about Auschwitz’s notorious Block 24 brothel

VEILS: Award-winning playwright Tom Coash’s drama set against the dawning of the Arab Spring in Egypt


 THIS IS EXILE: A screening of Emmy Award-winning director Mani’s documentary which follows child refugees from Syria into Lebanon. Produced by Julia Kirby Smith and Sian Kevill (the first female producer of Newsnight)

THE HEART OF AUSCHWITZ: A filmmaker goes on a search to discover how a beautiful handmade birthday book came to be within the walls of a concentration camp, who its makers were, and how it came to survive the horrors of war.


 KEYMEA YAZDANIAN: An intimate look at women in private spaces in Iran

ALISON BASKERVILLE: Alison has focussed on the impact of conflict on those working and living in various areas of conflict around the world, including Afghanistan, Mali, Israel and Gaza



 HEIDI KINGSTONE – DISPATCHES FROM THE KABUL CAFÉ: Actor read excerpts from the acclaimed foreign correspondent’s memoir about her extraordinary experiences in Afghanistan between 2007 -2011 followed by an ‘In Conversation With’ session. This date is in partnership with the British and Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group, who present music and talks by Afghan women about their experiences in war torn Afghanistan and coming to Britain as refugees.


Supporting the work of the charity Women for Refugee Women (WRW), female refugees from around the world will perform the poem Set Her Free. The performance will be followed by a discussion led by the performers. All proceeds raised will be donated.

Festival Director and Executive Producer Sarah Berger said: War has changed, but its effect on generations of women hasn’t. I wanted to use all kinds of art to give a voice to and examine the experience of women in war zones and to look not just at what happens to them during conflict but to tell the stories of their lives both before and after it. Women are so often betrayed as victims, but time and again it is them who build a new life out of the ashes. Women demonstrate huge resourcefulness, humour and courage in the face of sometimes horrifying adversity, and it feels like the right time to tell some of these stories.”

Rachel Neuburger, Festival Producer continued “The response to this festival has been astounding, both in artists wanting to be involved and in interest from the public. While the subject matter of women and war is not something that has been ignored, the breadth of experience being represented is impressive in its own right.”

Supporter, actress Imogen Stubbs added: “This is a bold, important idea. Now, more than ever, we need to raise our voices as artists to make sure that women across the world feel both heard and supported.”



 ARMY B.R.A.T.: With Robin Galloway | Directed by Eliza Baldi (Drama)

One Daughter’s Legacy of a Childhood Inside the Fortress

Told through the eyes of a female child growing up in a military household, ARMY B.R.A.T. takes you on an intimate journey across continents, battlefields and generations.


BY MY STRENGTH: Written by Laura Stevens | Directed by Charlotte Peters | Produced by Claire Evans (Drama)

Kat wanted to belong, so she joined the Army.

After all, it is the ultimate test of who you are and what you stand for … Only in Afghanistan, it’s not always that simple. Written by Bruntwood Playwriting Award finalist, Laura Stevens, this powerful new piece explores what it means to fight for your country in today’s world.


FACE THE CAMERA AND SMILE: Written by Dan Horrigan (Drama)

Face The Camera and Smile is a play about consent seen from the perspective of four characters united by conflict.

It is told through the actions of: a female photojournalist; the soldier she was embedded within Iraq; an actress reconstructing the story for a film; and the wife who wants that story to honour her sacrifices


GIDIONS KNOT: Written by Johanna Adams | Directed by Mathew Hahn (Drama)

A taught two hander examining fears around the government’s agenda to ‘safeguard’ against terrorism in schools, teacher and parental responsibility and above all freedom.


INVISIBLE WOMEN: Written and performed by Kate Cooke (Comedy)

A repressed Housewife becomes a spy for the resistance in WW11.

A thrilling tale of derring-do in WW11. Repressed housewife, Mrs Bishop, is just the person to help the Resistance. Kate Cook plays everyone from 15 year old Cecily, the swing dancing dreamer, to sadistic, Herr Von Schnerkel, a general of Hitler’s Gestapo. 

MUNOJAT: Produced by Orzu Arts Music and Dance (Music and Dance)

There is nothing worse than for a mother to lose her child to war.

This show is designed and directed by Yuldosh Juraboev who also appears in this play as Earth, Tulganays husband, her son, and men at war. Guljahon Baiz as Tulganay and she arranged the entire music for this show, Guljahon is an actor and musician, singer and makom specialist from Uzbekistan.

As part of Orzu Arts, Music and Dance’s festival programme, Rahima Mahmut appears for one performance only – Sunday July 24th at 7pm. Mahmut, is an ethnic Uyghur, born in Ghulja city, East Turkistan, which is currently occupied by China.

NEPENTHE: Written by Rachel Neuburger | Directed by Miriam Ibrahim with Zoe Hutmacher. (Drama)

Should one remember or forget? An intense one-woman show about Auschwitz’s notorious Block 24 brothel.

Hollywood 1961, we are led on a journey by Esthie, the beautiful 31 year old wife of a movie studio head, who is also a German political Holocaust survivor. When she finds out that a film is being made, based on what is now considered pornographic novel full of lies about the infamous Block 24 Auschwitz brothel, she begins a mission to put a stop to it.

ROSAURA: Devised and performed by Teatro Inverso Paula Rodriguez and Sandra Arpa (Drama)

Rosaura is a two woman show based on the play ‘Life is a Dream’ by Calderón de la Barca.

The piece is a new and vibrant interpretation of this Spanish Golden Age Classic. The story unfolds from the point of view of its main female character, Rosaura, one of the strongest characters in the history of theatre. The last two performances will be in Spanish.


SHRAPNEL: An evening featuring pieces by DHW Mildon and Chris Fogg (Drama)

A collection of short pieces including the story of a woman whose friend was tarred and feathered as a French collaborator in world war two; an explosive encounter between a war photographer and a woman in a hotel room, a female mortician getting ready for a date in Camp Sebastian, a mother whose son was killed in the final minutes of WW1 seeking solace from a psychic. In addition there is the dramatic poem Posting to Iraq by Chris Fogg – which tells the tale of Poppy, a young nurse, who breaks off her engagement with a British soldier in Iraq who is subsequently killed in action. Posting to Iraq explores the roads not taken, without sentiment or regret, in a tone whose surface ordinariness belies its heroine’s courage.

THE MARVELLOUS ADVENTURES OF MARY SEACOLE: Directed by Sarah Berger|Starring Cleo Sylvestre (Drama)

The fascinating story of the Jamaican-Scottish woman who braved the Crimean War to tend to wounded soldiers.

Told in her own words, the story of a truly exceptional woman, who went to be voted the greatest black Briton in 2004. This production will be transferring to C Venues at this year’s Edinburgh Festival.

THE MASKS OF APHRA BEHN: Written and performed by Claire Louise Amais and directed by Pradeep Jey (Drama)

The Masks of Aphra Behn tells the remarkable story of the world’s first professional female writer and her experiences as a spy for King Charles II in the Dutch Wars.

When a performance of her most successful play, The Rover, is cancelled, Aphra Behn herself takes to the stage to recount her extraordinary adventures in Antwerp and the West Indies. Complete with excerpts from her letters, poetry and plays this new one-woman show throws light on a truly unique personality.

VALIANT: Adapted for the stage by Lanna Jofffrey | Based upon the book Valiant Women in Exile by Sally Hayton-Keeva | Directed by Alexandra Renzetti (Drama)

Valiant chronicles a century of war seen through the eyes of women from across the globe.

Meet thirteen women who have fought in, struggle through and survived conflict.

VEILS: Written by Tom Coash | Directed by Pamela Schermann (Drama)

Set against the backdrop of the dawning of the Arab Spring in Egypt.

Two young Muslim girls – one Egyptian, one American – examine their cultural differences and find an unexpected friendship.

WAR BABIES: Written and directed by Carol Allen (Drama)

Kate is English. Louise is French. They were both born in World War two.

Their story embraces war and peace, life and death, love – and theatre.

WAR SONGS: Songs devised and performed by Ros Shelley and Gavin Roberts |Directed by Pip Broughton (Music and Drama)

Music poetry and verbatim pieces from across the centuries about women and war.

WE’LL MEET AGAIN: Written and performed by Katy Baker Musical (Drama)

A look at the lives of some of the fabulous women who have entertained our troops.



An intimate look at women in private spaces in Iran.

Looking at the vast array of female sensibility that lies beneath the surface and a celebration of the strength of women in areas such as Iran these images celebrate Iranian women and the tenacity and defiance they show in molding themselves and their identity in a country that marginalizes them. www.keymeayazdanian.com


Alison Baskerville (b.1974) is a British documentary photographer. Along with her work in conflict she also investigates social and domestic issues both abroad and in the UK.  Her work has been published by the Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Mirror and BBC online Features. She has also completed commissions for Plan International, Care International and the Royal British Legion.
Her work looking at the role of female British soldiers on the front line in Afghanistan has been exhibited in the Oxo Gallery in London. www.alisonbaskerville.co.uk


THIS IS EXILE: Powerful documentary film that following child refugees from Syria into Lebanon. 

Produced by Make World Media Productions: Sian Kevill and Julia Kirby Smith | Directed by the Emmy-award winning director Mani. This is Exile is an extraordinary, intimate portrait of child refugees forced to flee from the violence of Syria’s civil war to neighbouring Lebanon, filmed over a year. Their testimony in this film is a beautifully crafted microcosm of the human cost of the ongoing civil war in Syria that has forced over 4.5 million people to flee; half of whom are children.  There is still no end to the war in sight.

The documentary is highly topical but it is also a timeless creation that engages with the essence of what it is to be exiled from your home and the normality of life. With its truly poetic visual style there is space for the mind to wander through the film’s locations and to understand the profoundly disturbing truth that these children are unlikely to see their homeland again until adulthood. The film was the International Jury Award Winner (Documentary) at the International Human Rights Film Festival, Glasgow and the Amnesty International Award Winner at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival.


THE HEART OF AUSCHWITZ: It sits like a jewel in a museum showcase, a cloth-and-paper valentine, created in the midst of horror.


The Heart of Auschwitz is no bigger than a butterfly. It looks as fragile as one, too. Yet, this tiny artefact rises on a pedestal like a testament to the strength of human resistance. Signed by 19 young women at the infamous Nazi concentration camp, it was smuggled out by a 20th woman who brought it with her to Canada. Now the story of the heart, and the prisoners who risked their lives to make it, have been brought together in a Quebec documentary film. The memento is a heart-shaped autograph book. Inside, on pages that open origami-like, are the birthday wishes of the women, who were slave labourers together inside the camp. At great personal risk, they gave it to a Polish inmate named Fania on her 20th birthday. See trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiEUt5LlnTY


EVERYTHING IS ORDAINED: A Holocaust Survivor’s Indefatigable Spirit

In 1940, Bettine Le Beau was 8 years old when she was taken to a concentration camp in France. When a stranger came into the camp in the middle of the night and said she could save 10 children, Le Beau’s mother didn’t hesitate to hand her over. For the remainder of the war, Le Beau lived in hiding in Switzerland, separated from the rest of her family. Filmmakers Andrew Griffin and Martin O’Neill collaborated to bring to life her animated memories of escape and reconciliation. Le Beau went on to have a successful acting career, and in September of 2015, she passed away at the age of 83. This film was commissioned for the Holocaust Memorial Memory Makers Project.


Heidi Kingstone is a leading foreign correspondent and has written for some of the world’s foremost publications, covering stories on human rights issues, conflict and politics and reporting from places as diverse as Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Bangladesh, Mali, Darfur and the Middle East. Her first book, Dispatches from the Kabul Café, published by Advance Editions (2014) is a memoir of her time reporting from Afghanistan over a four year period, from 2007-2011. There will be actor read excerpts from her book, followed by an ‘In Conversation With’ session. www.heidikingstone.com.

This date is presented in association with the British and Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group (BAAG), a unique advocacy and networking agency which supports humanitarian and development programmes in Afghanistan. BAAG aims to ensure that Afghan voices are heard at national and international level. Music and talks from Afghan women will be presented, discussing, in their own words, both their experiences in Afghanistan, and those of having travelled to the UK as refugees. www.baag.org.uk



Women for Refugee Women (WRW) is a small charity that supports women who claim asylum in the UK, by empowering them to tell their stories and campaigning for a fairer asylum process. WRW supports two grassroots groups, the London Refugee Women’s Forum and Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) London, and works through the arts, media, and public events to tell women’s stories, influence MPs, and effect policy change. The Set Her Free poem, written and performed by members of the London Refugee Women’s Forum and WAST London, powerfully explores the experiences of refugee women who come to the UK seeking sanctuary from conflict and persecution. A post-performance discussion will be led by the performers, from all over the world, and charity and all proceeds will be donated to WRW.


There will also be a Bechdel Theatre discussion, exploring the politically relevant topic of the under-representation of women on stage after the performance of SHRAPNEL on Friday 8th July as well as a writing master class by VEILS author Tom Coash and additional panels across the festival.

Tickets all shows £12 Mon –Thu, £15 Fri –Sun. Early bird tickets are priced £10 and £13 respectively. For times and dates and to purchase tickets, please visit: buytickets.at/thesoandsoartsclub



For more information, images and interview opportunities, please contact Target Live:

Rebecca Byers | rebecca.byers@target-live.co.uk | 020 3372 0962 David Bloom | david.bloom@target-live.co.uk


WAW Benefit Invite

Prosecuting Conflict-Related Sexual Violence


The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has been at the forefront of advancing international criminal law with respect to the prosecution of those accused of crimes of sexual and gender-based violence during conflict.

As the work of the ICTY draws to a close the prosecutors have considered the legacy and lessons of their experience, and produced Prosecuting Conflict-Related Sexual Violence at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (OUP 2016).

Inspired by the book and accompanying PSV network, this conference will spotlight experiences and challenges in prosecuting sexual violence crimes at the ICTY and beyond.

Prosecutors, judges, advocates and practitioners will reflect on lessons learned from international, regional and hybrid tribunals and highlight specific experience from local jurisdictions.


16 June 2016

LSE campus
Central London

 The conference will feature panels on:

  • Challenges in investigating and prosecuting at the international level
  • Limitations in the legal framework
  • Experiences from international tribunals and national courts
  • Reparations and transformative justice

Access to the conference is limited, and pre-registration is essential. Register your interest via the eventbrite page using the password ‘WPSEndSVC’.

Speakers include:

Laurel Baig; Louise Chappell; Carla Ferstman; Hassan B. Jallow; Teresa Fernández Paredes; Priya Gopalan; Adrijana Hanušić Bećirović; Michelle Jarvis; Daniela Kravetz; Julissa Mantilla; Maxine Marcus; Patricia Sellers; Lada Soljan; Keina Yoshida. Read more about the speakers.

 The conference marks, a few days early, International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict . 19 June commemorates the adoption in 2008 of UN Security Council resolution 1820, which recognised sexual violence as a tactic of war and a threat to global peace and security, requiring an operational security, justice and service response.  It further recognised that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and/or constitutive acts of genocide.

Afghanistan First Lady: Afghan Women Have Raised Their Voice against Violence

RulaZalmayFeatureAfghanistan’s First Lady, H.E. Mrs  Rula Ghani, was invited to speak on Afghanistan and its journey to development at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC.
The First Lady spoke about the progress and achievements particularly on women’s rights by disputing some of the myths about Afghanistan that she said existed in the West and particularly the Western media.
Mrs.  Ghani also contested the myth that the United States has lost the war and failed in Afghanistan. “Wasn’t America’s aim to help rebuild the country and help it on its way to achieving political stability? Wasn’t the peaceful succession from President Karzai to President Ghani the sign of political maturity?” she asked.On the National Unity Government and its performance, she said it would be inaccurate to say that the government is not working. “Repeated half-truths take a life of their own…and suddenly become conventional wisdom.” She added. Mrs. Ghani said the Afghan government has made progress on reducing corruption, but counselled caution noting that “it takes time to clean up years of neglect and absence of management. It takes even more time to build up solid foundations on which to build the reforms.” Her remarks were followed by a panel discussion moderated by Zalmay Khalilzad, a former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, President of Gryphon Partners, and a member of the Atlantic Council’s Board of Directors. The First Lady answered questions by audience on her Office role in helping address some of the pressing needs of specific groups like women and children. She concluded by saying that people of Afghanistan want to be able to live peacefully in their villages and cities, and have the same aspirations as other people.

Full text of HE The  First Lady’s speech:

In the Name of God the Compassionate the Merciful
Distinguished Members of the Audience
I come to you in Peace As Salam Aleikum

By inviting me to address this select gathering of thoughtful and influential movers and shakers, men and women, the Atlantic Council and its Afghanistan Rising Initiative are honoring me. And I would like to thank Fred Kempe, Jim Cunningham and Zal Khalilzad for their warm welcome. Thank you also to you, members of this audience for taking the time to come and listen to me.
Listening is something I myself do a lot in Afghanistan. When I first decided to fully assume the responsibilities of First Lady some 18 months ago, I was entering unchartered waters. I had no specific agenda but that of serving the people, especially the vulnerable ones. That meant that I had to get to know them better and understand their grievances. Hence the open door policy of my office. In the first six to eight months, groups after groups have come to see me, pouring out their hearts and sharing their concerns. Some came from the provinces, others from Kabul, a few are civil servants, among them of course the four women ministers, others are social activists or entrepreneurs. To this date the flow is constant if somewhat less rushed.

I listen to what my four advisors report to me daily—four enthusiastic, hardworking women, slightly younger than I am, who deeply care for their country, who still remember how beautiful and strong it was forty years ago, who are determined to help rebuild its society, and who strongly believe in the capabilities of the Afghan people.

I also listen to the international community. Some of you here today can vouch for it. From UN agencies, to embassies, to international aid institutions (USAID, DIFID, Australian Aid, Canadian CIDA, Japanese JICA, etc.etc.), to NGOs, and even to individuals (I am thinking for example of Pascale, that French lady who is bent on creating a virtual cultural museum for Afghanistan). I love their dynamism though I sometimes chaff at their bureaucracies…

All this to say, in a roundabout way, that the information I’ll be presenting to you will be first hand, factual, and representative. It might not reflect what you read in journalistic or even in some expert accounts. (I was struck by a comment on the ongoing political debate on terrorism, from Susan Hasler, a former CIA fact checking analyst, who recently wrote: “People make the most incendiary, irresponsible claims as if stating indisputable facts. Hardly anyone will tell you where they got their information. Repetition and volume try to take the place of verification.” I would use word for word her observation to describe the reporting on Afghanistan these days.)
Journalists are so rushed trying to be the first to scoop a story while striving to write it in its most sensational and entertaining version that they hardly have time to check their facts. Repeated half truths take a life of their own, especially on social media, and suddenly become conventional wisdom.

The result today is the existence of several myths that need to be debunked:

The Taliban are winning. Really? Then why is it that we keep hearing about the same 100 meters being lost and regained in Helmand every other week or month? And why is it that their leader cannot claim to be Amir el Muemenin? The fact is that they do not fully control enough territory to be able to make that claim. And by the way, who is the Institute for the Study of War that produces misguiding maps to the contrary?
America has lost the war. What war? America came in to hunt down Osama Ben Laden—which was done. To my knowledge America is not at war with the Afghan people.

America has failed in Afghanistan. Wasn’t America’s aim to help rebuild the country and help it on its way to achieving political stability? Wasn’t the peaceful succession form president Karzai to President Ghani the sign of political maturity?

The electoral process in 2014 was fraudulent. How can you still insist on that when the UN commission carried on three different recounts over two months and was unable to discover the alleged “fraud on an industrial scale?”

The Unity Government is not working. When Angela Merkel took over six months to put together her Unity Government nobody blinked. Why should it be different in the case of Afghanistan?

Afghanistan is falling apart economically. Maybe they mean that the pockets of the previous bureaucratic and political elite are no longer bulging with ill-gotten money. In my book less corruption should be considered progress!
The present Afghan Government is inefficient and disorganized. It takes time to clean up years of neglect and absence of management. It takes even more time to set up solid foundations on which to build reforms. Let us keep an open mind for a year or so. Besides, in their USIP “peacebrief”, Bill Byrd and Khalid Payenda are already reporting that collection of revenue has already increased by 22% during 2015. If anything, this is not a sign of disorganization!

Afghan men are an uncivilized lot. Illiteracy does not mean lack of culture. Afghan traditional society is highly cultured. Of course this is seldom the case for warlords and mercenaries. But isn’t that true in most post conflict situations? And again it takes time to replace the reign of violence with the rule of law. And the government is hard at wok reforming the Justice system. 

Afghan women are worse off than before and any peace with the Taliban will be made at their expense/or its alternative women have no say in the peace negotiations. Let’s get the record straight: The number 2 on the High Peace Council is no other than Mrs. Sorabi, former governor of the Bamyan province and no shrinking violet. Another woman is also on the negotiating team: Mrs. Hassina Safi, head of the all-important Afghan Women Network AWN. Women are taking part in the peace process and at the highest level. Besides, President Ghani himself has repeatedly declared in public speeches that the issue of women’s rights is non-negotiable.

I would not be surprised if some of you will want to raise questions regarding several of the precedent points, and I will be glad to engage them during the Q&A session that will follow my speech. Let me though tell you more about a topic close to my heart: the women of Afghanistan.

As I mentioned at the beginning there is a constant stream of women who come to see me. Lately, I have noticed an increasing number of upbeat accounts. Of course we are far from having solved all the problems and challenges and it has been less than a year since the barbaric tragedy of Farkhunda in Kabul , and even less since the savage stoning of Rukhshana in Ghor, to name just a few cases of violence against women. !

But the women of Afghanistan did not take this lying down and have raised their voices against all this violence. One of the results of their efforts has been the creation, with the help of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, of an emergency fund dedicated to the victims of violence that will help cover their expenses especially their legal and medical ones. Another has been the holding of several meetings and conferences with religious scholars as counterparts to discuss what is the place of women in Islam and to clarify any misconception. And believe me, you would be surprised as to how many injunctions in the Holy Quran preach respect for women and equal treatment of women and men!!

One very important development in our country since the new government came to power 18 months ago has been the greater participation of women in public affairs. We now have four women ministers, all four very active and effective; our foreign service now counts three women ambassadors (soon to be four); we almost had our first women judge at the Supreme Court, (by the way do you know that we have over 250 women judges in Afghanistan, whereas some of our neighbors do not even have one!…); many more women have been joining the civil service, some of them in responsible positions such as deputy ministers; the police are aiming at recruiting 5000 women and have already passed the half way mark; the army has identified positions that are exclusively to be filled by women while also declaring some other positions to be open to both women and men; and so on and so on.

In other words, the present government is actively pursuing the integration of women in its decision-making processes. At the cabinet level, a commission for gender policy, led by Vice-President, Sarwar Danesh and attended by representatives of several ministries, has been busy looking into the gender units of all ministries and the gender sensitivity of all official rules and policies. 

The ongoing reform of the Justice system is also benefitting women. A special division (diwan) of the Supreme Court is now dedicated to cases of violence against women and children and is headed by one of the Supreme Court Judges. This has ensured special attention and higher speed in resolving those cases. (One such case is that of Farkhunda that is being carefully re-examined) Also, a special Commission of the Supreme Court has been reviewing the cases of every imprisoned woman and, to date, 95 women have been released or pardoned and 42 have seen their sentenced reduced. New regulations regarding harassment at the workplace were issued in September 2015. The criminal code is being amended so that women running away from home are no longer automatically considered criminals and sent to jail. Here again, many more adjustments are still needed but the Justice system is definitely becoming increasingly fair towards women.!

And I could go on and on about the women-friendly policies that are being implemented by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, of Agriculture, of Rural Development and of Labor and Social Affairs, following the guidelines of the official Women Economic Empowerment Plan.
My own team of advisors have also had their share in bringing improvements to the condition of women in Afghanistan. In the Health field, one major accomplishment has been the formation of an Afghan Cancer Association bringing together all existing health cancer specialists under the auspices of the Public Health ministry to set up a unified policy towards the fight against Cancer—with an emphasis on breast and cervical cancer. Similarly, our office has supported a campaign launched by the counter-narcotics Ministry and has helped in establishing a treatment center for addicts with one special hospital dedicated to the treatment of 300 women addicts.!

So, it will not surprise you if I conclude today with a message of hope. The hope that I see on the faces of the women who come to visit with me, the hope that these women are slowly regaining control of their destiny, the hope that the protection afforded to them by the Afghan constitution is gaining momentum, the hope that they can become active participants in their country’s social, economic and political life, the hope that they can dream again for a better future for them and their families.

Nowhere is this message of hope stronger than in the lives of the rising generation.
I see it in Malika who at age 25, with a starting loan of merely Afs1700, found the way to start three small businesses, open two high schools, and buy a piece of land on which she hopes to build a pasta factory. 

I see it in her contemporary Shabanah who, acutely aware of the educational aspirations of girls from the provinces, is finding so many ways to provide them with opportunities for learning in Kabul and abroad and who is about to fulfill a dream of opening a boarding secondary and high school for them in the capital.

I see it in another of their contemporary Narges who has founded her own NGO in order to be of help to her community, attending to those in need, and who single-handedly managed to accompany 20 handicapped children to India where she had arranged for their treatment and came back with 17 of them now able to walk.

I see it in Leila, who after several years of taking care of her brother who was addicted to drugs, decided to open a shelter where 40 addicts are attended, and who is running in parallel a small restaurant in order to cover her expenses.

I see it in Aminah, an MBA graduate from AUAF who after several years of helping Kabul University students in the department of economics start their own business is now about to start a venture that covers the whole process of production of wool, threads and carpets in order to create 5,000 jobs to women in Afghan provinces.

If this is not hope then what is!
Thank you


 Afghanistan First Lady: Afghan Women Have Raised Their Voice against Violence – March 31, 2016

Diary Dates – Afghanistan Week ( 22-26 February)

Women for Women International are having an ‘Afghanistan Week’ (22-26 February). For further details and further information about events see below: 

Frame by Frame screening with a post screening discussion

Monday 22 February 2016, from 6:30pm, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London  

Women for Women International invite you to an exclusive screening of ‘Frame by Frame’, directed by Alexandria Bombach and Mo Scarpelli. Starring Pulitzer prize winner Massoud Hossaini and award-winning Afghani documentary photographer and photojournalist, Farzana Wahidy, ‘Frame by Frame’ follows four Afghan photojournalists as they navigate an emerging and dangerous media landscape reframing Afghanistan for the world, and for themselves.

More information: http://www.womenforwomen.org.uk/ways-give/events/frame-by-frame  

Online Q&A

Wednesday 24 February 2016, from 7:30pm

Women for Women International will be hosting an online Q&A with one of our colleagues from Afghanistan. More information will be available on our website soon.

A year in transition: lessons on women’s rights in Afghanistan

Thursday 25 February 2016, 3:30pm – 5:30pm, Houses of Parliament, London

2015 marked an important year for Afghanistan’s transition following the newly elected government and the drawdown of international forces in 2014. This parliamentary briefing will explore the lessons from 2015 from a women’s rights perspective and identify recommendations for the UK to effectively support women in Afghanistan. We will be joined by colleagues from Women for Women International-Afghanistan, who will present insights based on their experiences in one of the most difficult countries to be a woman where we have worked with almost 50,000 marginalised women since 2001. Speakers include: The Rt. Hon. Baroness Anelay of St Johns DBE, Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict; Mandana Hendessi OBE, Country Director, Women for Women International-Afghanistan; Quhramaana Kakar, Gender Advisor to the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program and Joint Secretariat of the High Peace Council; Dr Pilar Domingo, Research Fellow, Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

To reserve your place please email policyuk@womenforwomen.org