"Disillusioned," "outraged," "despairing," "frustrated," "conflicted," "sad," "hypocritical," "shaken," "angry;" The words came tumbling out. A small group of students at EAST house on Stanford's campus had gathered to watch and discuss "Peace Unveiled," the third installment in "Women, War and Peace," a 5-part series on PBS created and filmed by Abigail Disney and Gini Reticker. As usual, there was much else happening on campus -- across the way in the brand new business school Knight Management center, Laura Arriallaga was launching her new book, "Giving 2.0" In it, she argues it is not how much you give, it is how you give.
Giving. The women of Afghanistan profiled in "Peace Unveiled" know a lot about the how of giving. For over 30 years now, they have given their lives, their health, their safety, their security and their dignity in the struggle for freedom, peace, and equality. Activist and philanthropist Abby Disney captures on film their fierce desire to do something, not just to better the status of women, but to change the future of their country. The filmmakers also mince no words about how little support women, (or for that matter, men) in Afghanistan can count on from the United States or the international community in this battle. In careful, painstaking, yet nuanced detail, we learn how the words spoken by the diplomats fail to translate into protection for women's rights. "Where after all do human rights begin?" asked Eleanor Roosevelt many years ago. "In small places, close to home, so small you cannot see them on a map."
The film shows us the difference women's leadership is making in those small places -- the young man in Kandahar bursting with pride as he speaks of his mother, who is now a delegate to the peace talks; The little granddaughter parading in a burka behind her grandmother because she wants to leave the house to go to Kabul, too, and the lone female Afghan voice at an international donor gathering making a presentation that claims space and rights for women.
The filmmakers strike a fine balance between those glimpses of "another world that is possible and breathing and on her way" with brutally honest clips that expose the double standards that the West imposes on Afghanistan. We watch the Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador who once spoke so forcefully against Karzai, urge a delegation of women to back down and be more forgiving of what transpired in the past to enable the US to make a "better case" for supporting the Karzai government to forge a "peace deal" that will include negotiating with the Taliban. We watch Hillary Clinton promise the Afghan representatives that she will never accept a peace deal that is pushed through at the expense of women and then we watch the peace jirga where women sit in stony silence as Mujahideen warlords, war criminals and known Islamic extremists are showered with kisses and affection by an effusive Karzai. One brave woman stands and shakes her fist, shouting that she cannot accept this travesty of justice in the name of "so called" peace. Karzai laughs and she turns and walks proudly out of the gathering.
I saw the same pride and determination in the Afghan women I met in 2003 in Kabul and earlier this year when I was in Peshawar, Pakistan for the Global Fund for Women. For all the intentional and unintended efforts by extremists and/or the mainstream media to turn women and girls into victims, there are hundreds of stories of quotidien resistance. They stand up and demand to be noticed. They send their children to school. They teach school and train teachers. They lead civil society organizations like the Afghan Institute for Learning (AIL) and the Afghan Women's Network (AWN). They find a way to feed their children despite having little or no access to jobs. They laugh and sing the latest Hindi movie songs.They run for office. They eat ice cream in the open. They teach their daughters and their sons soccer. And whether covered in burkas or deliberately unveiled, they walk tall carrying the weight of their world with grace and tenacity. That is Giving 10.0.
Follow Kavita N. Ramdas on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kramdas