Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Supporting new opportunities in Afghanistan

Suzanne Loughlin is an NZAID Multilateral Development Programme Manager. She is currently in Afghanistan, and writes about the development challenges and achievements there.

On Monday I attended openings for two training courses. The first is provided by the NZAID-funded Programme for Professional Development under leadership of Director, Marissa Espinneli. It is an eight-month course for graduates to help them enter the job market. Limited employment openings mean there are few opportunities to develop and so the course aims to fill this gap. It provides for basic skills in drafting reports, developing and managing budgets, communications training and so on. It also offers short-term placements to build practical experience. Marissa provided an overview of the programme and then invited the Provincial Governor, Dr Habibe Sarabi, to say a few words of inspiration. The NZ PRT Commander, Greg Elliott, and I also wished the students well not only for the course but for where it might take them.

The second event opened a training course for tourist guides and is part of the eco-tourism programme again funded by NZAID and implemented by Aga Khan Foundation. Baba Mouseni, head of the Provincial Council, spoke as did Governor Sarabi and others. The three-month training programme aims to ensure that guides are informed of the World Heritage Status of the Bamyan Valley, have an understanding of the history and archaeology of the region, and a more detailed understanding of nine sites for which brochures have been prepared and signboards under construction. Most of the course is being provided by Afghans.

I went back Tuesday to meet with the eco-tourism programme director, Amir Foladi, to catch up on what else the office had been doing. We looked at photos and he told me about a major event held back in March to celebrate Nowruz (New Year) – it’s the first time this festival has been held for some 30 years. Several thousand people attended the festival, which has both religious and secular components. There were skits that were not only fun but aimed to communicate messages about tourism and the need to care for the environment, musicians played traditional instruments and – another first – two young women sang accompanied by musicians on traditional instruments. I asked if this had caused any waves and if he had had any trouble arranging the programme. His answer provided a good example of what is commonly referred to as ‘ownership’. He involved as many community members and groups in the festival planning on the basis that if everyone is involved then all would ‘own’ the festival – both the accolades and the problems. He would not be left alone to deal with any friction should it arise. And it didn’t.

Another summer festival is currently being planned which will be held at the newly established national park at Bandi-Amir in July. I wish I could be there!

For more information on tourism opportunities in Bamyan - click here to read more.

Note: the photos have been taken from the Nowruz Festival in Bamyan.



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