BEYOND THE 11th www.beyondthe11th.org
From the website of Beyond the 11th I’ve borrowed the introduction below, which communicates so much about the motivation and values of this organization.
About Beyond the 11th
"Two American widows who lost their husbands on 9/11 started a foundation to counter acts of hate with acts of humanity. Since 2003, we have helped thousands of Afghan widows learn to support themselves and their children. Pragmatism and compassion are powerful allies.
We partner with international aid groups to teach vulnerable women the income-generating skills they need to not just survive but thrive. They are living proof that pencils and ledgers – not airstrikes and missiles – are the most powerful agents for change."
Do go to their website to read their story, and read about how they are empowering Afghan widows to live beyond the extreme destitution and discrimination which would normally be theirs.
Beyond the 11th builds partnerships with organizations that work in Afghanistan, and helps fund their initiatives. On their website you’ll want to read the section “Who We Serve/ Our Partners” as it gives a real sense of the impact that they are having through these partner organizations. It makes for very compelling reading.
An article by Nicholas Kristoff, co-author of Half the Sky, tells about their work and its importance not only to the widows themselves but also to nation building and the pursuit of an elusive peace.
Read some stories (temporarily unavailable) of Afghan women who have been able to develop financial resilience through business ventures made possible by the support of Beyond the 11th and its partners in Afghanistan.
Here's the trailer for a documentary on the impetus that motivated the two 9-11 widows to begin their organization, Beyond the 11th.
The documentary itself, “Beyond Belief”, about the work of Beyond the 11th, is available for rent or purchase for streaming online.
M's story from Beyond the 11th website
M’s husband, who had been an architect with the military in Afghanistan, was killed in a rocket attack. In addition to her own seven children – including one son with severe disabilities -- she was helping raise her daughter’s two children. Her elderly mother also lived with them.
Together with CARE, we were able to finance M’s enrollment in a poultry-raising project. She was given hens, feed rations, and chicken coop materials. With new technical skills and productive assets, M was able to pay school expenses for the children.
“I have two readily available, best-quality protein sources for my children. All of my sons except the sick one are going to school. And I have decided to send them all to university. It requires hard work, but I hope no one will ever forget us. I thank CARE, who supported us in the harsh and disappointing Taliban era, and even until today.”
of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)
RAWA is unabashedly political, founded by a young woman who poured her energies into speaking out against fundamentalism and its stranglehold on the women of Afghanistan. She was assassinated by members of the Afghan secret police because she was too much of a threat.
However, her legacy lives on in this organization that uses every means possible to expose the cruel and inhumane treatment of widows and other women, in the name of religion.
From their website: “RAWA’s objective was to involve an increasing number of Afghan women in social and political activities aimed at acquiring women’s human rights and contributing to the struggle for the establishment of a government based on democratic and secular values in Afghanistan.”
During the Russian occupation, RAWA reached out to the many displaced Afghan women and children in refugee camps in Pakistan and provided education, medical care, and counselling for them. Regrettably there has not been the financial backing to enable RAWA to continue their humanitarian projects as they would like.
For more on the reality of life in Afghanistan for war widows, please read this article.
Here’s a poem from many on the RAWA website (www.rawa.org) that paints the stark, tragic reality of Afghan widows’ lives, by Neesha, who says, “I wrote a poem that was inspired by the RAWA site – about a woman in Afghanistan who has given up on life – she is now forever part of the ‘silenced’. I hope it will inspire you to help RAWA raise awareness and money for our sisters in Afghanistan who need our help in fighting the Silencers”.
The Threshold of Silence
In the name of Allah, you have raped my body
In the name of Mohammed, you have stolen my freedom,
O! Taliban, what more can you take, you have shattered my soul?
My children have not eaten for days
My husband was killed in the civil war
And I’m trapped in a house with windows painted black.
I remember when I still believed in hope
I remember when I thought they would come
To save us from a life of chains.
I’ve heard of a thing called feminism
It fights for women so they earn what men earn
But in my country, women can’t even work.
In my country, women have no rights
Girls are not allowed an education
And my little girl can’t even spell her own name.
No one heard me screaming
Now I’m silenced forever
And millions of flames have died before me.
We are murdered if we leave our homes unescorted
We are covered from head to toe in suffocating garbs
And we are invisible to the world.
We cannot attract attention or we will be slaughtered
We cannot participate in social events or sports
My children cannot fly kites – real or imaginary.
My teenage boy, he believes that women are the scum of the earth
That’s what they taught him, that’s all he’s ever seen
He will beat his wife and treat her like a slave.
I wrote this poem to tell the world who doesn’t care about me
That I exist even if they look the other way
Just because it isn’t them doesn’t make it go away.
As you leave your home to go to work, sister
As you watch your little girl laugh her first laugh, father,
Think of my children – my life is over, but theirs has just begun.
I crossed over the Threshold of Silence
And now I am forever part of the Silenced
Marked by invisibility and darkness.
When I crossed over, I also crossed
The Threshold of Pain.
Where you feel nothing.
I don’t ask for your pity
I don’t ask for your nonprofit
But never let this happen again.
Our silence must never become an epidemic
Because then we lived and died in vain
And left our children a shameful legacy.
My pen’s running dry, this story’s told
It’s dedicated to my Afghani sisters
So remember, you can never let it happen again.
TAPS in Afghanistan https://www.taps.org/international
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is an American NGO created to be “there for the everlasting mourning and grief, for the days that take you to your knees”, for those whose deceased loved one was a member of the armed forces.
It was started by Bonnie Carroll, herself an army widow, who realized the need for emotional care and peer support for those plunged into grief. In time she recognized the need for TAPS in other conflict-ridden countries, and so their model has been taken up by Ukraine, Iraq and many other countries.
In Afghanistan Carroll discovered a level of devastation among the thousands of widows, collateral from the endless conflicts, that eclipsed what she had seen elsewhere. She realized that these widows needed more than emotional support, they needed a serious way to provide financially for themselves and their families.
And so began the Afghan Hope Project, which trains widows to become skilled artisans in lapis lazuli. The bracelets and jewelry they create are marketed on the TAPS website and provide a good living for the widows involved in the project.
Not insignificant is the therapeutic value to the widows, who would normally be isolated and ostracized, as they come together to learn and do their craft. As they work they’re able to share stories and grieve together.
Read about the amazing work with Afghan war widows in “These Bracelets Are Made by War Widows in Afghanistan” and maybe order a piece of jewelry for a special person in your life.
WOMEN FOR WOMEN INTERNATIONAL https://womenforwomen.org
Women for Women International reaches more than widows; its mission is for all women who are underprivileged and especially those whose lives have been impacted by war.
Their Mission: In countries affected by conflict and war, Women for Women International supports the most marginalized women to earn and save money, improve health and well-being, influence decisions in their home and community, and connect to networks for support. By utilizing skills, knowledge, and resources, she is able to create sustainable change for herself, her family, and community.
Women for Women International runs programs in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Iraq, Rwanda and South Sudan. The stories on their website from women who have worked through their program are deeply moving and also filled with hope.
Their website describes how Women for Women’s signature program provides a combination of social and economic empowerment. Marginalized women in conflict-affected areas may enroll in this year-long program, which clusters women in groups of 25 to learn together, be a mutual support throughout the trauma of war, and together develop ways of earning viable incomes.
“Throughout their time in the signature program, women receive support through a monthly stipend, letters from sponsors who help women go through the program financially and emotionally, and referrals that connect women to organizations that provide more services they may need – such as psychosocial support, literacy programs, legal aid services and more.“
This website makes for challenging reading, but gives one hope that out of the ravages of war women may be able to build a better life for themselves, their families and communities.
If you would like to give for specific, tangible assistance to a widow through one of their projects, go to their Catalogue. Maybe you’ll want to honour someone on their special day by donating for the cost of a hygiene kit, or safe drinking water, or a doctor’s visit or any of a number of other possibilities. Enjoy browsing!
There's also hope for destitute widows in Africa, China, India and South Asia, and through global programs. Read about the work of other fine organizations in these areas.