Women around the world celebrated the 100th year of International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March 2011. IWD was first recognized and celebrated as a holiday on 8 March 1911 in Austria. The day was created to honor hardworking women and create awareness of the injustices that women face everyday. The topics campaigned for at the very first IWD were women’s right to vote, equal places in the work force, the ability to hold public office, and the end of discrimination against women. Fast forward 100 years and there are women all over the world still fighting for these same issues. In Kabul, Afghanistan the battle is definitely still ongoing.
CURE International Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, celebrated International Women’s Day one day late, on the 9th of March 2011. We delayed our party so we could include a very honored and respected woman in Afghanistan, Dr. Soraya Dalil, Acting Minister of Public Health. About seven women from the hospital were actively involved in planning and organizing this event. Everyone on the planning committee had a wonderful time organizing the food, selecting gifts, and preparing days before with lots of wrapping and ribbon-making. There was a special invitation placed around the hospital that invited all the women of the hospital, including visiting trainees from other provinces, to join us in the cafeteria at 11:00am. As the women began to arrive, there was a lot of anticipation at whom the special guest would be and also excitement over the special gifts.
The cafeteria quickly filled with the women and everyone took their seats and waited for the program to begin. Dr. Soraya Dalil arrived and everyone was so excited to see that she would take time from her busy schedule and speak at our Women’s Day celebration. She took her seat and the program began. I did the opening welcome and began the introductions of our speakers. We had a lovely poem on Women’s Day by Nelofar, from our Pathology Department, that really got everyone excited about the celebration. Next, Dr. Sofia Hail, our Attending OB/GYN doctor and graduate of our OB/GYN Fellowship Program, gave the history behind Women’s Day and introduced our special guest and her former classmate, Dr. Soraya Dalil.
Dr. Dalil spoke encouraging words to the women of our hospital. She included her own experience here at CURE and how she was in our hospital for 56 days and had a 28 week premature baby that was cared for in our NICU. She spoke with great tenderness about her time here and how special it was because now she has a 4 year old healthy daughter that she loves dearly. She spoke of the many challenges that face women in Afghanistan and talked of ways to improve the infant and maternal mortality rates that are so prevalent in this country. You could tell that she captivated every woman in the room, holding their attention until the very last word. The women applauded as she left the podium, and it was evident on their faces that her words touched them deeply.
Next, Joe Davis-Fleming presented Dr. Dalil with a special gift, a bouquet of flowers and a chadar (scarf), as a thank you from our hospital. He also spoke words of praise and endearment for the hardworking women in our hospital and in Afghanistan. Dr. Yousuf Khan, our Deputy Medical Director, blessed the women with words of empowerment using the Koran as his basis and challenged them to continue to seek rights and fair treatment because that is what they deserved. Dr. Azeeta Hadid, our Family Medicine Resident Graduate and current Family Heath Center Manager, also spoke of women taking leadership in their country and the rights of women.
At the conclusion of the wonderful and encouraging speeches, the women were individually served a catered lunch from a local restaurant. The food was a wonderful selection of Afghan specialties that included qabli pilau, chicken and beef kabobs, spinach, chips, naan, salad, and potatoes. The women were then each presented with a beautiful red rose and a wrapped gift of a chadar (scarf). The women enjoyed the nice lunch, fellowship, and laughter with each other.
As Dr. Dalil exited the ceremony, she requested to visit the Maternity and NICU wards to reminisce of her time with us. She commented on how different it was, because we have reconstructed both wards since she and her daughter were patients here. She was impressed with the changes and glad for the opportunity to see them before leaving due to her busy schedule. After the ceremony was over, all of the Women’s Day committee members received so many compliments and praises from the women of our hospital. They enjoyed everything from having Dr. Dalil present to the wonderful lunch and the gifts. Each one said they had not received such a great celebration for women and were happy to be a part of it. It was worth all the work that went into the planning, decorating, and organizing when it was evident from all the women of the hospital that they felt appreciated, valued, and loved. This was the 100th celebration of International Women’s Day worldwide, but felt to most of these women that it was their first celebration of being valued as a woman. Thank you to CURE International Hospital for allowing this day to be possible and for making this day a huge success and encouragement to the women of our hospital and future leaders of Afghanistan.