There are no “Afghan Women”

29 July 2017 , , Philia

Nicole is sharing some reflections on her experience of teaching the Philia Peer Coaching Methods in Afghanistan.

“I have started implementing the Philia Programme in Kabul, Afghanistan in April 2017 and now it is July 2017.

As I had interviewed Afghans, who are prominent in the startup scene in Kabul, for my upcoming book, it was fairly easy for me to get access to young female entrepreneurs. The women I worked with were all part of the USAID funded project Startup Valley and eager to additionally learn more about the Philia Peer Coaching Methods.

While teaching this group of ambitious entrepreneurs, who were all in the process of setting up their own businesses in Afghanistan, I truly learned a lot:

First of all, I had this suspicion before, but now it has been confirmed: there are no “Afghan women”. Of course, I am joking and this might sound self-explanatory but in Afghanistan, there are many projects focusing on “Afghan women”, as if they are all the same. Philia focuses on the individual and on giving each other support in finding one’s own truth. Each individual woman I worked with was very unique. By meeting each week at the Women’s Empowerment Workshops, we really got to know one another and learned about each other’s fears and challenges and personality traits. Sometimes, it is easy in the development context to group individuals together and ascribe certain characteristics to them. By meeting with the women each week for a few months, I feel that the entire group really got to know each other on a much more personal level.

Second of all, I learned that in the environment I operated in continuity was difficult to achieve. The security situation in Kabul steadily worsened while I lived there. A variety of terror attacks were carried out in Kabul. There were road blockages during ramadan season. One woman had to drop out due to her fiancé not allowing her to continue with her business and the Philia classes. This is problematic in the sense that momentum is harder to be kept up. Once momentum is broken it takes a lot more extra effort to resume where you left off or having to go through some of the content twice.

Thirdly, we exchanged not only our views and thoughts in person and in our facebook group, but also in gestures and gifts. Nabila and Yasaman as well as Parwarish brought me scarves in summer, because the weather got so hot and all my headscarves were for winter time. That was so sweet of them. Further, while we met at the Ifta party I was greeted by the Philia participants waving towards me pointing to an empty chair they kept for me to sit with them. When Ramadan ended, I brought some chocolates that I asked a friend of mine to bring from Germany. We exchanged thoughts in our secret Facebook group throughout the weeks. Trust leads to sharing not only thoughts, gestures and also gifts.

Those are moments where I can feel that the dream of Philia come true. Philia is a programme that creates a culture between women to strengthen one another, looking out for one another and supporting one another.

Philia gives a framework. The participants fill it with their individual contents.