“Dear Zari”: Women in Afghanistan

http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio

April 27th 2011

For immediate release

http://www.wpradio.co.uk talks to Author and journalist Zarghuna Kargar: “Dear Zari – Hidden Stories from Women of Afghanistan”

Afghan Women’s Hour journalist Zarghuna Kargar has just published her new book “Dear Zari”. Based on 13 real life stories of women in Afghanistan today, including her own, she tells how these heart-breaking and empowering stories are transforming women’s lives, simply through their “telling”.

Zarghuna was part of the first team of journalists to report for Afghan Women’s Hour which in two years became the second most popular programme on the Radio. The telling of stories and the sharing of experiences through radio has transformed the lives of many women and their families.

Zarghuna, who now lives in London, tells our Executive Producer, Boni Sones OBE, how every time she wrote or read lines in the book tears came to her eyes.

“I hope my book is read with care because there are so many hurt feelings involved in these emotions, hurt feelings of me and women in the book.” Boni spoke to Zarghuna at the Cambridge Wordfest event as they sat by the river bank.

Published by Chatto & Windus in early May 2011: Amazon: Hardback £11.29 or £8.31 Paperback. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dear-Zari-Stories-Women-Afghanistan/dp/0701184698.

Zarghuna told Boni:

• “Emotionally it was very hard, just listening to those women and hearing about their experiences was very touching for me as an Afghanistan woman. Meeting women as a woman journalist in Afghanistan, is not so hard, because I would just go to neighbours in Kabul, and people living around me and working with me. I talked to women who had suffered in attacks of war, or women achievers in Afghanistan.”

• “All of these stories I tell have affected me in a very personal way. One woman married a gay man, and was struggling to get a life without a husband. This convenience marriage to a gay man, was a very difficult life and she wanted to get divorced, but because she was not educated she found it very difficult. Divorce is a very big taboo in Afghanistan, and I went through a divorce too. It really touched me emotionally because I made those decisions in my own life which is against my traditions and against my society.”

• “I found these women were brave. Sometimes I couldn’t imagine that people would go through so much and have such resilience and yet be able to think about positive things for their children and grandchildren. There is a story of a kite maker, a widow, the war left many widows, and some of them are forced to beg on the streets, But after her husband died in a car crash, she decided to make kites with her children in the house and sell them. In the kite running season she is getting money and helping her children to get an education by buying paper, and pens and books for them.”

• “I believe the media has great affect, especially the BBC, because it is one of the most trusted organisations in Afghanistan. The Afghan women’s hour was a lifeline for those women, it was the first time many of them had spoken in front of a microphone and their voice went on air.”

• “The Afghanistan woman’s hour became the second most listened to programme in just two years. Grandmothers used to tell their grandsons: “Can you tell Zarghuna Kargar that we like those programmes, we feel that you are telling stories about our life”. These women were role models for a lot of other women in Afghanistan, for instance, the carpet weaving women who gave opium to their babies so that they could work the long hours required. These small experiences women shared brought great change in their life and in my life.”

• “I remember speaking to two mothers who sons had died in the wars, their experiences were exactly the same even though they were fighting for different sides. Their feelings of loss were greater than what they were fighting for – the affects of it were the same for the two mothers, even though their sons fought each other and for different reasons.”

• “Now we have a Parliament with women members, millions of girls are going to schools, women are working as teachers and doctors and for me it is a positive change, women can earn a living. Years ago a women couldn’t come out of the home without a man, so there is a positive change now, and if the laws that have been enacted are implemented it will bring change. “

• “Please don’t forget women in policy making. Women’s freedoms and rights are the most important part of democracy. They shouldn’t be forgotten. For years Afghan women lost education and it has left a great impact. Whenever I went to try to recruit reporters for the programme it was so difficult to find educated women.”

• “Every time I wrote the stories I cried mostly, it touched my feelings, sometimes I was scared about what the would say about the things I was writing, every time I wrote, it was a difficult time emotionally for me. I hope my book is read with care because there are so many hurt feelings involved in these emotions, hurt feelings of me and women in the book.”

Footnotes:
1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. Latest web stats show in March 2011 for the previous 6 months we are consistently getting over 2500 visits per month. Downloads have ranged between 25GB and 36GB per month.
2. We don’t share our content with others in order to inflate our stats, you have to visit our website to listen to our content. We have over 500,000 hits in a year.
3. Our web stats show that our visitors are loyal, they return, tune in for some time and to more than one item and they enjoy our documentary making too. In March 2011 there were 1,250 downloads of individual podcasts, with our top ten downloads published on our site.
4. The top four downloads show our cross-party appeal to our listeners: 1. Hazel Blears Interview 203 2. Sally Keeble How the budget is helping grandparents 171 3. Theresa May Interview 159 4. Anne Begg Parliamentary Education Service Question Time 123. 5 Anne Begg – Parliamentary reform and MPs expenses. The ERS documentary on women MPs had 99 downloads.

5. wpradio also carries international content and has interviews with women MEPs in Europe, and women politicians in Africa and the Middle East.

6. Our supporters include Theresa May MP, Jo Swinson MP, Harriet Harman MP,and many other female politicians listed on our site. Jackie Ashley, of the Guardian, is our Chair.

7. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.

8. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.

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Jo’s marathon for leukaemia research

http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio
April 11th 2011

Jo’s marathon for leukaemia research
Target: £2,620.00
Raised so far: £2,770.40

If you would like to sponsor Jo go to: http://www.justgiving.com/jo-swinson.

Jo Swinson the Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire, a PPS to Vince Cable, and co-founder of the Campaign For Body Confidence is about to compete in the Virgin London Marathon 2011 on April 17th.

Jo is only the second women MP ever to run the London Marathon following in the footsteps of her colleague Patsy Calton, a former LD MP for Cheadle, who ran it four times, but subsequently died of cancer in 2005.

At her height Jo has trained for between 35 to 40 miles a week, and fitted in five work outs during the week. She eats plenty of complex “carbs” but also confides that while she is running long distances she snacks on sports drinks and jelly babies too.

Jo who completed the Loch Ness Marathon in 2007, says running is a good way to “respect” your body and give you confidence. Our Executive Producer Boni Sones OBE caught up with Jo as she was climbing the stairs to her third floor office in Westminster:

Jo told Boni: “There will be tens of thousands of runners at the London Marathon who are not professional runners who don’t do this for a living but who will be determined to do this and train, and put their body through a test in a positive and healthy way rather than this continual obsession our culture often has with how bodies look.”

Jo has managed to stick to her training schedule despite working long hours in Westminster and doing constituency surgeries and fitting in events after undertaking long training sessions:

“Well I suppose I have run 8 or 9 hours a week at most at the height of my training, and that is difficult. When you are in Parliament from 9 in the morning until 10 at night, fitting in an hour at the gym is not that unreasonable and it normally leaves me feeling energised. The long runs are a pain to fit in, you need to have a good breakfast beforehand, and you don’t feel that active afterwards, but I have run for 20 miles and done a constituency surgery and a couple of events in the afternoon and evening, now that can be quite exhausting!”

Jo said planning those long training schedules around a busy work and home life is essential but that one London Marathon is enough for her for the time being:

“I certainly don’t think running marathons is something that you can do continually, it does take over your life, and I have had to plan the long runs months in advance. I will continue running even though I won’t be marathon training after this, it is quite fun to have something to aim at. I first got into this by doing the Race for Life in 2006 which is 5k and you can run or walk it for women of any age and background – it is an amazing day, and I realised I quite enjoyed it.”

Jo confides that she snacks on Jelly Babies and that she hopes to cross the finishing line in under four hours depending on the weather:

“I will get round even if I have to walk and if I cross the finishing line in under 4 hours I will be over the moon. It depends on the weather given I am from Scotland I am not used to running in the sunshine and the heat – I am crossing my fingers for a slightly chilly damp day.”

She paid tribute to the memory of her fellow MP London marathon runner Patsy Calton:

“I feel very proud to be following in Patsy’s footsteps, and we overlapped as MPs in Westminster for a few weeks. When I was elected in 2005 Patsy was very ill, and she ran the London marathon twice for cancer charities, after beating cancer once and then it came back unfortunately.

“I am a big believer in exercise for lifting the spirits generally and getting you back in touch with the fact your body is this amazing machine. I really think we should give ourselves a break on the body image front and enjoy our bodies and have confidence in them.”

Jo said she had already met her fund raising target for Leukaemia research but that donations were still needed:

“I am raising money for Leukaemia research. There’s somebody close to me suffering from that and that gave me the motivation to raise money for this research. A few decades ago there were very high mortality rates with childhood Leukaemia and now there are high success rates. Thanks for everybody who sponsored me and anybody who would like to sponsor me just go to http://www.justgiving.com/jo-swinson.”

Ann McKechin MP for Glasgow North and Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

Ann McKechin has been an MP since June 2001 and the MP for the newly configured constituency of Glasgow North since 2005. She was Scottish Office Minister in the last Labour government and is now the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland. Ann previously served on the Scottish Affairs Committee and then as a member of the International Development Committee and was Chair of the All Party Group on Debt, Aid and Trade and Chair of the backbench group of Scottish Labour MPs.

Our intrepid http://www.wpradio.co.uk reporter Linda Fairbrother spoke to her about how she managed to work as a Westminster MP, with the Holyrood MP, the Regional representatives and the Euro MP. How does “devolved” government work for the people who vote for her?
Ann told Linda:

• ”I believe Whitehall is very weak on Scotland at the moment. I am shocked by how little understanding there is about the impact of policies on Scotland. Ministers say we can rely on funds in Local government that don’t apply in Scotland. The influence of the Scottish office is considerably weaker since the Election and also in No10 the appreciation of the impact on devolved areas be it Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales is much, much weaker and it does have an effect. Scotland’s voice within the current government is much weaker since before the Election.”

• “Devolution has been with us for 12 years, and the civil servants do work together. The civil service is aware it has to understand how policy works in Scotland, and I think the working is not controversial but is very strong.”

• “It is important we preserve the things that make the Union good. The fiscal crisis showed us the strengths of being part of the UK and how it protects us against risks and volatility in the Global environment, such as the problems in the Middle East at the moment. We want to preserve the best things in the UK but devolving power on what works best.”

• “My colleagues at Holyrood will tell you they don’t work office hours, we as Westminster MPs may have to travel up and down but their diaries are full too. I love my job as a Westminster MP it is the best job I could have, and my colleagues at Holyrood are equally dedicated and if you compared our working hours you would find they are just about even.”

Footnotes:
1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. Latest web stats show in March 2011 for the previous 6 months we are consistently getting over 2500 visits per month. Downloads have ranged between 25GB and 36GB per month.
2. We don’t share our content with others in order to inflate our stats, you have to visit our website to listen to our content. We have over 500,000 hits in a year.
3. Our web stats show that our visitors are loyal, they return, tune in for some time and to more than one item and they enjoy our documentary making too. In March 2011 there were 1,250 downloads of individual podcasts, with our top ten downloads published on our site.
4. The top four downloads show our cross-party appeal to our listeners: 1. Hazel Blears Interview 203 2. Sally Keeble How the budget is helping grandparents 171 3. Theresa May Interview 159 4. Anne Begg Parliamentary Education Service Question Time 123. 5 Anne Begg – Parliamentary reform and MPs expenses. The ERS documentary on women MPs had 99 downloads.

5. wpradio also carries international content and has interviews with women MEPs in Europe, and women politicians in Africa and the Middle East.

6. Our supporters include Theresa May MP, Jo Swinson MP, Harriet Harman MP,and many other female politicians listed on our site. Jackie Ashley, of the Guardian, is our Chair.

7. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.

8. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.