Robert Fox, Defence Correspondent
8 Sep 2011
In one of the poorest parts of Afghanistan, the dramatic and beautiful mountain province of Bamyan, Farzana Jan, a mother of four, has a lot to be proud of.
This rugged corner, where 90 per cent of the people are from the Hazara ethnic minority, had one of the highest rates for infant mortality and mothers dying in childbirth.
Part of the problem is the sheer remoteness of the villages. Some are cut off from outside contact by heavy snowfalls from November to April, and there used to be no expert help for women giving birth at that time.
Then, from 1998 to 2001, the Hazaras of Bamyan suffered three rounds of slaughter by the Taliban - thousands were killed. Many more, such as Farzana, fled to Pakistan. In 2001 the Taliban blew up the great stone Buddhas, Bamyan's cultural symbols.
Returning in 2004, she was attracted to a midwifery course being offered by an aid donor. Eighteen months later, on graduation, she was soon helping to run the next course.
Farzana, 37, tells how Bamyan Midwifery School, of which she is founder and co-ordinator, started; before there was no trained midwife in Bamyan.
The school now has 56 students in training. So far, 86 have graduated to work in four hospitals and district clinics across the province.
The school, funded by the Aga Khan Foundation and US Aid, is light and airy, with neat classrooms and a crèche for mothers. The youngest child today is a girl just three-and-a-half weeks old, sleeping in her cot.
Students are selected carefully, Farzana explained. "Of course, they do an entrance test; they must be 18, and have at least 10th grade in school. We make sure the family approves, and we ask the shura - or council - of village elders to give their approval, too."
The course tackles pregnancy, including complications and family planning, social awareness, rights, pharmacology and sexually-transmitted disease.
The school is almost a victim of its own success, many students getting jobs in the capital, Kabul, and some going abroad. The course has now been extended to two years and includes English and computer studies.
Newest staff recruit is Deeba Yaqubi, 21 , who spent 15 years in exile in Pakistan after fleeing the first Taliban attack in the valley. She said: "I was only six and can't remember much except the bodies left lying outside our house."
She teaches computer use. "I like it very much, and I know my father, a driver, and my brother, who is an accountant, are very proud of me."
The class studying emergency childbirth admire and support Farzana. But she wants more. "I really need another 60 midwives to be sent to the clinics right across the province - we just don't have enough."
How does she cope with her own family and the clinic? "I can do it because of my husband, who is interested in what we are doing. In fact he is the guard at the gate," she said. And why did she chose midwifery?
My husband encouraged me to do it. Because he loves me."
London Evening Standard
Azaranica is a non-biased news aggregator on Hazaras and Hazarajat...The main aim is to promote understanding and respect for cultural identities by highlighting the realities they are facing on daily basis...Hazaras have been the victim of active persecution and discrimination and one of the reasons among many has been the lack of information, awareness and disinformation...... To further awareness against violence, disinformation and discrimination, we have launched a sister Blog for youths and youths are encouraged to share their stories and opinions; Young Pens