Rebuilding Afghanistan is proving to be a slow and difficult process. In the relatively quiet central province of Bamyan, where the Taliban notoriously blew up several giant Buddha statues in 2001, a group of women have decided to use their own bare hands to build up the infrastructure and roads that have suffered from years of war.
Thousands of refugees have returned to Pakistan but there is still insufficient infrastructure for them to get on with their lives
The village of Darai Azdar is some five kilometres west of the town of Bamyan in the central Afghan province of the same name.
Darai Azdar, which means “valley of the dragon”, is a new government settlement for refugees returning from Iran and Pakistan. But there is no proper infrastructure and no connecting transport links or roads to nearby towns.
There is no road to Bamyan, where many of Darai Azdar’s inhabitants work and that’s why a group of local women have decided to take matters into their own hands and build the road themselves with the help of very basic equipment -- mainly shovels and wheelbarrows.
Persuading the men
“For a long time, we tried to persuade the men of the village to build the road” said Zainab Rezai, the head of the settlement commission. “But that didn’t work. In the end, about 150 women started building the road -- as volunteers.”
75 families will benefit from the road project added Rezai, who explained that she and the other women also got sick of waiting for the local authorities to react to their requests for a road.
“How long were we supposed to wait until someone would come and help us?” she asked. “We started doing it ourselves. We hope that now the administration will support us so that by next year we will have a road that is good enough to withstand the spring floods.”
Inspired by shovelling women
Inspired by the women in the village, some men have started to pitch in. One of them -- Hedayatullah Raschidi -- said that the women had set a good example and that “surely more people will help, even maybe the state.”
Raschidi added that the administration was responsible for the infrastructure and should be more supportive. However, the local authorities have said they do not have the funds to develop the infrastructure, passing the buck to the central government in Kabul.
Until the men in authority come to a decision, the women of Darai Azdar continue to shovel.