The SAWAN, Newsletter of RAWA supporters in Australia, Issue 8, November 2005
RAWA AUSTRALIAN TOUROnnie Wilson
What a great month October turned out to be: RAWA’s Amena Shams was in Australia, speaking at many forums across the country. For all those who were fortunate enough to attend one of Amena’s many events, it was a great opportunity to reconnect directly with RAWA, to be inspired by news of RAWA’s ongoing work and to receive accurate, current information of the situation for Afghan women. For this 2005 tour events were organised in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Lismore and Brisbane by a wide range of organisations including the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, the Boite, the International Women’s Development Agency, Immigrant Women’s Support Service, Melbourne University, Flinders University, Amnesty International, the Australian Peace Committee, WILPF, Darebin City Council, several private and government schools as well as many RAWA supporter groups and individuals. Many were eager to support RAWA, and Amena was able to take back over $15,000 that was raised for RAWA’s programmes: approximately the cost of a RAWA orphanage for 6 months.
Like her RAWA colleagues who have visited us in the past, Amena was a great ambassador for RAWA, an unparalleled feminist organisation of 2000 Afghan women with many Afghan male supporters that is both unique and inspirational in its political and community work. Hearing Amena, we were reminded that the extreme suffering, insecurity, oppression and violence experienced by Afghan women continues but that under the burqa are great women of strength, wisdom, and outstanding capacity who have the dedication, courage and abilities to bring about a new future for all Afghans. For those who were privileged to have spent time with Amena, it was a time to recharge our feminist batteries, renew links with our RAWA sisters and have the opportunity to have RAWA advise our future support directions.
There were many memorable moments and events of the tour but one event that stands out was Amena’s visit to Mt Waverley Secondary College in Melbourne. During the year, year 7 students studied the novel Parvana, the story of an Afghan girl under the Taliban and were so moved by the plight of Parvana that they used the internet to locate Afghan girls and found RAWA. All 180 students emailed RAWA separately and in true RAWA spirit, all the emails were answered. Their teacher jumped at the opportunity to meet Amena and for 90 minutes the students sat, glued, on the edge of their seats as they listened to and questioned Amena. Time ran out before the questions and Amena was clearly moved by the students’ interest and concern, particularly that of one small but extremely thoughtful girl who read Amena her most moving poem: a response to Parvana’s plight.
A big thank you goes to all those who put so much time and energy into organising such a successful series of events and to all those who supported the tour. Amena has taken back to RAWA many stories of Australian support that are keenly sought by RAWA members, and funds raised will go a long way to continuing RAWA’s vital work.
For anyone who missed hearing Amena, do not despair, a copy of her public presentation at the Darebin City Council is available from Onnie (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a RAWA donation of $20.