Driven out of their jobs and even their homes, women journalists, many of whom were sole earners for their families, were suddenly rendered jobless. Under the banner “Journalists for Afghanistan”, the Network of Women in Media, India, in partnership with The Media Safety & Solidarity Fund, organised a photo-fundraiser in September 2021 from sales of stunning photographs from the Associated Press. AP generously allowed the use of images from its Afghanistan coverage of over 20 years by internationally acclaimed photojournalists.
Through the dedicated website and Instagram, international outreach was designed not only to raise funds but also raise awareness about the plight of Afghan women journalists. Around $100,000 was raised through purely voluntary efforts. The funds have been disbursed to more than 30 Afghan women journalists both inside Afghanistan and outside. The process is ongoing.
Several times, the funds reached beneficiaries at the crucial time. One of the beneficiaries needed money to get a set of false teeth, after she had her teeth removed due to severe pain, just before the takeover by the Taliban. “Thank you for giving my smile back,” she shared. Another beneficiary needed to get haemorrhoids surgery. She was able to schedule it with the funds received. Two pregnant Afghan journalists were helped with funds at the right time, ensuring they were able to access healthcare and deliver their babies safely. At the height of the bitter winter, the funds helped beneficiaries buy basic provisions and heaters. Some used the funds to get passports and air tickets to leave the country, hoping to build a better future elsewhere.
NWMI members have forged strong bonds with several of the beneficiaries, often being their sounding board. Some beneficiaries who were able to move to other countries have been helped to find their feet on new shores through the goodwill that NWMI members have built with other networks around the world. The NWMI has helped raise funds and also expertise to set up radio stations in exile. Many women journalists in exile hope to continue to tell stories of their people, especially Afghan women.