Back to Essays
2014 Massoma Jafari and Supriya Ganesh - Kabul, Afghanistan and Noida, India
Jafari Massoma and Supriya Ganesh
2014 Words of Women Essay of the Year
Massoma Jafari, Kabul, Afghanistan
For the first time, I met her while she delivered her speech as a new chairperson of the Kabul Institute of Health Science. Her passionate speech about high rate of maternal and child mortality and disability, vulnerable women situation, huge number of illiterate young girls in the country, represented her love to country. She said about heroes who were working in the dedicated national movements for ensuring that no women or child die from pregnancy related complications. She encouraged us (midwifery students) to join the heroes in Afghan Midwives Association (AMA) and working together to change the women situation. Pashtoon Azfar graduated from a Nursing and Midwifery School and preferred to work as a ‘Midwife’ and worked in Kabul Military Hospital and Mazar-e-Sharif Regional Hospital as a Nursing & Midwifery Director. After seven years heading a clinic as midwife for Afghan refugees in Pakistan, She returned to Kabul in 2003 to continue serving the Afghan people. She served in various positions with different organization such as the International Medial Corps-reproductive health trainer, midwifery education manager- Management Science for Health, Midwifery Technical Advisor - Jhpiego and Director - Kabul Institute of Health Sciences. A woman from my war torn country is now working with International confederation of Midwives as a ‘Regional Midwifery Advisor to South Asia’. No one knows better than Pashtoon that three decades war has remained bad impacts on Afghans education, especially women. She believes and says, devastations of war provide only more reason to move forward with urgency “We must be united in our efforts, remembering that mother is the most important member of our Afghan family”. Pashtoon knew that by working together, Midwives can bring change to the health system, contribute to the reduction of maternal mortality and morbidity, and ensure highest quality services for Afghan families even in the most remote corners of the country. She made hundreds of voices one voice and united hundreds of hands as one hand to create fundamental change in the lives of Afghan mothers and families. Today the AMA is proud to have membership of more than 3000 midwives that walk together to tackle maternal mortality and defend their women rights. She standardized the modern midwifery education and struggled hard for its effective implementation, she took initiative to establish the Midwifery and Nursing Accreditation Board through AMA. Since I met Pashtoon and joined AMA, and working as a midwifery student’s representative, newsletter admin, program officer and head of professional development group, I learned that integrity and unity can be only way to change the status of women, no one can help women except women, there is a long way to go so we should work hard like Pashtoon, 12 hours a day in seven days of week. “Everybody wants [her]. Her government, American aid groups and her own colleagues, the midwives of Afghanistan, all want her to work for them, lead them, help them rebuild a health system from the rubble of war” (New York Times, 2009)
Supriya Ganesh, Noida, India
When I was twelve, my parents introduced me to the rich, fascinating, magnificent city that is New York. I was almost immediately enamoured by Manhattan— simply being in the city reminded me of a possible glamorous life that beckoned— and knowing that everyone in my vicinity shared the same yearning for that lifestyle gave me a sense of peace, a sense of belonging. Needless to say when the last day of our stay arrived I was justifiably morose; to cheer me up, my parents took me out for dinner at an extravagant restaurant (I forget the name) as something of a compensation. As I licked some cream off my spoon, I noticed a woman sitting in the table adjacent to ours. What made her catch my eye were her clothes— she was dressed like a goddess: a beautiful black dress with lace embellishments, Louboutin pumps (I spotted the telltale red sole), topped off with a messy bun. It took me a few minutes to discern her age— twenty seven, maybe twenty eight? She didn't seem to notice the young Indian girl gawking at her— although that’s probably because she was engaged in a heated discussion on her phone. After shamelessly eavesdropping on her conversation I gathered she was lawyer, and I watched in awe as she nonchalantly threw around professional terms that sounded too complicated to exist. A man joined her soon after the call ended. Again, I stared as she ordered the gnocchi to be followed by the crème brûlée. Even though her male companion talked to the waiter in a dismissive manner, she was polite and thanked him for taking their order. She was extremely sophisticated— she engaged in small talk with as much poise as she had in professional banter, and never for once did she make her fellow diner feel ill at ease. Once the meal ended, she reached for the cheque and offered to split it between themselves. As I left the restaurant I thought— this is a woman who can stand on her own two feet. This is a woman who can take care of herself. This is the woman I need to be. That woman was, is and always will be the most influential person in my life. Even though she didn't know it she taught me many lessons on womanhood that day in the span of the meal— lessons of kindness, dignity, class, poise and most importantly independence. She taught me that a pretty face is only effective when it is backed by a powerful brain. She taught me that the most attractive quality in a woman is confidence. Although I don’t even know her name, she certainly left her mark. She is the ideal I live up to every single day of my life. I hope that I too, one day, can attain that level of perfection- and be as influential to a young girl sitting across me at an extravagant restaurant in Manhattan.