Local girls look at U.N workers unloading ballot kits from a U.N helicopter in Ghumaipayan Mahnow village, some 410 kilometres (256 miles) northeast of Kabul, Afghanistan. Oct 4, 2004. ( AP Photo/ Emilio Morenatti)
As the world watched with deep concern the rapid Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in early August, the potential adverse impact on hard-won freedoms, particularly for women’s rights, freedom of speech and press freedom, became alarmingly clear.
The Network of Women in Media, India, reached out to women journalists in Afghanistan in solidarity and looked for ways to support our beleaguered colleagues trying to survive and tell their stories against immense odds. One of the most urgent needs: money.
Under the banner “Journalists for Afghanistan”, the NWMI organised a fundraiser from sales of stunning photographs. The Associated Press generously allowed the use of images from its Afghanistan coverage. This collection brings together photographs by some of AP’s bravest and most talented visual journalists. The images are brief glimpses into daily life in Afghanistan over more than two decades. At a time of unimaginable societal and political upheaval in Afghanistan, and even as its people face an uncertain and frightening future, these images challenge us to reflect on the power of resilience and courage in tumultuous times. The NWMI partnered with the The Media Safety & Solidarity Fund (MSSF) for this fundraiser.
All proceeds of the fundraiser go towards supporting Afghan women journalists.
The Network of Women in Media, India
Update (October 2022): The fundraiser officially ended on 30 September 2021, but was extended for two more days because of popular demand. The response was overwhelming, and we managed to collect around US$100,000.
Messages of solidarity poured from contributors from across the globe. NWMI and MSSF distributed the funds to 43 Afghan women journalists. The amounts ranged from around US$500 to US$3000. MSSF facilitated the transfer of funds to not just Afghanistan, but also Pakistan and Turkey to where some of the journalists had fled to safety. The fund was distributed over a period of around a year, with the last set of funds distributed in August 2022.
The funds reached the journalists at a crucial time. Most women journalists in Afghanistan had lost their jobs and the onset of winter made life harder for them. With the Taliban imposing restrictions on movement for women and their right to earn a livelihood and threatening them, these women are under severe stress. Several of them are also sole breadwinners for their families.
The applications for the fundraiser shed light on this. “Since I was the breadwinner of my family of eight, we are now facing economic challenges due to losing my job. Unfortunately, the arrival of the Taliban in Kabul took away our work and life,” said one broadcast journalist who has worked in Maidan Wardak province and Kabul in Afghanistan, in her application form.
Many of the recipients shared how the funds helped to meet basic food necessities and living essentials like heaters, flour and cooking oil. Some of the journalists were able to use the funds towards costs for visas and travel to other countries. Some of them have now reached Pakistan, Turkey, France, Germany, US and Canada. Two of the recipients were pregnant, and the funds helped them to avail medical facilities and ensure safe deliveries of their babies- one in Afghanistan, and the other in Pakistan. Some recipients required funds for urgent medical needs like dental procedure, haemorrhoids surgery and medicines. Beyond the funds, some of the recipients have also been helped to network with journalists and associations in US and Canada so they can ease into their new lives and find employment.
Some of the experiences of these women journalists have been documented in a report by the International Federation of Journalists and NWMI, and supported by Norsk Journalistlag, titled, “In their Own Words: Afghan Women Journalists Speak”
Discussion on Journalists for Afghanistan and the crisis in Afghanistan:
Media coverage of the JFA fundraiser: