Artist and photographer, Rob Elphinstone, is working with French organization Femaid and ACA Gallery of Toronto, Canada to help bring much needed books to the people in the Eastern portion of Afghanistan.
The Kids can read Afghanistan program is being organized with Malalai Joya, elected representative in the parliament of Afghanistan. The idea is to construct a public library for young adults and children in Afghanistan.
The public library will be situated in ancient and historic Herat, one of the main cities of Afghanistan after Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif, by the Iranian border.
To help fulfill this goal limited edition photographic prints are offered for sale by artist and photographer, Rob Elphinstone. His remarkable journey through Badakhshan, an Afghan northern province in the company of Doctors without Borders is a tale that involves art, culture, medicine and the trials of war.
Instead of military intervention, this worthy program focuses on educating people in a culturally appropriate manner.
About he Project
The Public Library will be situated in the ancient city of Farah, south of Herat, one of Afghanistan's poorest regions. Population estimates vary through lack of official documentation and the sheer difficulty in undertaking any such research, but 200 000 inhabitants make up a conservative estimate. This library will be the first of its kind; furthermore, girls have been attending massively school since the fall of the Taliban. There is a 8000 strong student population in the city. The future library is located near the nearby Melman Nazo girls' school. There are 3000 female pupils there, studying in shifts, many of them former refugees, of which half of them are married and many mothers (marriage takes place quite often at 13 or 14 if not before).
With the help of a committee that includes experts on Islamic law and Afghan custom, careful thought will be going into the choice of works and films to be sent, in order to avoid any adverse reaction, all of which should be catalogued and approved beforehand: fiction and non fiction, world literature, works covering the fields of sciences, history, technology, practical medicine, first aid, childcare, home economics social sciences, gender in an accessible form will be sent, as well as reference works (encyclopaedias, dictionaries and teaching aids). More than a library, this should be a place for exchange and communication, studies and workshops. Through computers and Internet facilities, links with other schools and cultural youth groups worldwide could be established. This library, situated in one of the key areas of Afghanistan could be at the centre of many cultural exchanges between young people and schools East and West. Furthermore, for a society emerging from over a quarter of a century of war, a special area within the library with learning activities designed for young children will contribute to enrich perceptions of childhood generally. There are a number of young mothers and older sisters in the Melman Nazo school so the idea is that they could come to the library with the children they care for. Playing does not exist, because the concept of childhood as a period of discovery, learning and development is inexistent. Just as in pre-Enlightenment Europe, a child is considered just an incomplete, immature non-sexual adult who has to train for future hardship, especially girls. An area devoted to an Early Learning Centre,with creative games and toys will certainly advance the cause of childhood here.
About Rob Elphinstone
Rob Elphinstone travelled with Doctors without Borders (MSF) into the Hindu Kush Mountains to the northern tip of the province of Badakhshan.
Rob Elphinstone can be contacted by email at robelphinstone[.]shaw.ca.
Rob Elphinstone's Photography of Afghanistan
About Malalai Joya
The Afghan partner in this venture is Afghan member of parliament for Farah, Malalai Joya. The success of any kind of aid project, however well-intentioned, is dependent on the local partners, especially in such a difficult context. Malalai Joya is without a doubt one of Afghanistan's most courageous and outspoken members of parliament. She is becoming well known to the English-speaking public through her tour of the US and Canada this year. As a most vocal champion for women's rights in her country, she enthusiastically hosts host this project and her charity OPAWC, registered in Afghanistan will be the implementing partner in charge in Farah.
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