A peace activist spent her Christmas in war-torn Afghanistan helping spread the message of peace.
Maya Evans, 35, of Carisbrooke Road, St Leonards, visited the capital Kabul and met with local peace-makers and campaigners in what was her fourth Christmas visit to the country.
She led a delegation of UK peace activists which included Henrietta Cullinan and Mary Dobbing who are both part of the group Voices for Creative Non-Violence UK.
Maya said: “Afghanistan is still one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women, with little improvements made by the NATO/US-led offensive; illiteracy, access to medical health, and domestic violence still remain among the highest rates of any country today.
“While in Afghanistan we visited the Organisation of Promoting Afghan Women’s Capabilities (OPAWC), a grassroots organisation which teaches women in Kabul basic literacy, numeracy and handicraft so that they have an opportunity to gain economic independence and education.
“The office is located in district 5, very close to the notorious Chara Kumba refugee camp, the largest in Kabul and a no-go zone for foreigners. The area was also decimated by a local warlord during the civil war where hundreds of people were massacred.
“As a result the area has many widows who attend the centre.
“The director of the OPAWC is Latifa Ahmadi, who formed the group with some of her friends when they were teenagers living in Pakistan. Latifa and her friends were moved by the plight of Afghan refugees so initially set up a school and then a health clinic.
“Without a doubt Latifa is one of the most inspiring women I have ever met. She painted a grim picture of what life is like for women today in Afghanistan, billions of dollars spent on basic security for women and still the majority are without access to education, healthcare and the right to not be abused.”
Maya and her delegation also visited the Borderfree Non-Violence Peace Centre in Afghanistan’s capital.
The centre looks after street children, offering them lessons in literacy and so on.
Maya said: “I spoke to 12-year-old Habib, whose biggest worry is security and the danger of being caught up in an attack. He described how one day there was a bomb in Polysok, a shopping area not far from the peace centre.
“His mother was gripped with fear so walked the streets looking for him so as to take him home.
“The memory of meeting his mother Maryam last year came back to me, who described how her husband died in a sectarian suicide attack on a Shia mosque.”