Susan Hartley is the Chair of the Atlantic Chapter of the Canadian Women for Women of Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan), one of ACIC’s newest members. Susan is also a Director on the National Board of Directors. There are now 13 CW4WAfghan chapters throughout Canada, with the Atlantic Chapter forming in Pictou County, Nova Scotia in 2010. The Chapter is now based in Charlottetown, PEI and consists of members throughout all four Atlantic Provinces.
The organization’s work is three-fold. The first is various types of public engagement events raising awareness about issues facing the women and girls of Afghanistan. These events are held throughout Atlantic Canada all year round. Events include presentations to Rotary Clubs, schools, churches and larger community events, all intended to raise awareness and funds for the fantastic work of CW4WAfghan. Public engagement leads into their second type of work – fundraising. Members of CW4WAfghan host suppers (large and small scale) and invite people, which they encourage to donate and learn more about the issues as well as solutions facing the women of Afghanistan. The organization allocates 93% of the money raised towards programs it provides in Afghanistan. Thirdly, CW4WAfghan advocates for change by coordinating letter-writing campaigns, conducting media interviews, and pushing for action on human rights for women. It’s important to note that the work in Canada is done 100% by volunteers.
CW4WAfghan is also hosting two large events this year featuring Mellissa Fung, a CBC reporter who was held captive in Afghanistan in 2008. Mellissa will be speaking in Pictou County on May 8, 2014 and in PEI in the fall 2014 about her continued commitment to the Afghan people. The exact date for PEI has yet to be decided, but please stay tuned for more information as the fall draws nearer.
When asked how to put herself out of a job (the ultimate goal of many social organizations), Susan talks about their office and Afghan staff members in Kabul, Afghanistan. The hope is that more and more of the work at CW4WAfghan will be done by Afghan community partners, specifically with the literacy programs that are currently run by both Afghans and Canadians. Currently, Afghan trainers have trained 1,000 teachers a year for the past five years and CW4WAfghan also conducts capacity-building workshops for community organizations. The hope is that once organizations are trained they will function with increased autonomy.
Lastly, it is important to emphasize that CW4WAfghan was established since 1996 and has been working with the Afghan people long before the general public was familiar with Afghanistan in the news due to the military presence. Susan stated that the organization will continue to work with the people of Afghanistan even after the military presence of other countries leaves.
“We see Afghanistan in a different, and more hopeful, light than what people see most often in the news,” says Susan.