It might seem strange for someone who has never been to Afghanistan to care so deeply and believe so strongly in an organization that works only in Afghanistan and is staffed only by Afghans. My connection to Kabultec began shortly after 9/11. At that time I was working for ProLiteracy, a nonprofit organization facilitating adult literacy and basic education both at home and internationally. My particular program area was in assisting women in developing countries to improve their lives through education.
Our Women in Literacy program invested in women-centered literacy programs. For a number of years we had been hearing horror stories coming out of Afghanistan about girls being from banned from school and women being denied their basic rights. We wanted to help. Any assistance going to women in Afghanistan at that time was through an underground network. This was not an option for us as all our activities had to be transparent to our donors. After the situation in Afghanistan opened up in 2002, we looked to connect with a group that focused on work with women in the areas of human rights and literacy. We did extensive research through word-of-mouth investigation and a maze of referrals and meetings with potential organizations to find a partner.
We found Nasrine Gross, founder and executive director of Kabultec and its sister organization in Afghanistan, the Roqia Center. It met our criteria of advocating for women by promoting equality, human rights and literacy for social and economic change. To quote Nasrine Gross, “Literacy is the cornerstone of women’s rights.” This partnership continued these many years with direct grants and technical assistance to Kabultec. Since retirement, I have been privileged to continue my involvement as a member of the Kabultec Board of Directors.
Why Kabultec? If you are like me, everyday my mailboxes, both email and paper, are bombarded with appeals from every imaginable cause. I know the majority of them are doing wonderful work. I pick Kabultec every time. The transparency of its operations has always been important to me and I have never been disappointed. While Afghanistan’s challenges of political and economic instability as well as religious zealots seem overwhelming at times, Kabultec’s in-country staff commitment is tireless. They understand the unique local needs and are best equipped to implement appropriate responses.
In working with programs in developing countries for many years, I have come to understand that the programs led by local women and men are the most effective in improving the lives of their community. This is the heart of the success of Kabultec and the Roqia Center. However, what keeps me most involved is the quality and diversity of its activities. These include, to name a few: seminars on democracy and the rights of women, an orphan university scholarship program, distribution of seed packets and tree seedings to small villages outside Kabul, and innovative literacy programs for widows, young women, and couples in some of Kabul’s poorest neighborhoods.
In operation for fifteen years now (since 2002), at least 1,500 non-literate adult Afghans, aged from 18 to 81, in Kabul and Mazar-i Sharif are now able to read and conduct basic arithmetic operations. Literacy topics include such areas as public health issues, housekeeping, gardening, vocational trades, citizenship rights and responsibilities—all topics of interest to adult learners. Kabultec/the Roqia Center has also sponsored numerous women’s seminar programs on voting in elections and the rights secured for both men and women in Afghanistan’s Constitution and the rights and duties of citizens. The mission of Kabultec is to uplift the lives especially of Afghanistan’s poor through literacy training and basic education. This is why ProLiteracy, myself, and many others have been such strong supporters of Kabultec through the years.
As a member of Kabultec’s Board of Directors, I hope you will join me in supporting this wonderful work being done by an incredible group of dedicated people!
–Mary A. Kelly