news from afghanistan

this autumn in bali i met an incredible italian birthkeeper who selflessly travels the earth helping out in the most incredible situations – i asked her if we could hear her news on her travels as i have been so inspired by her and she is most definately a wysewoman – here is her news from afghanistan …please keep her in your prayers and know that there is a small but immensely strong army out there to heal the world one small step at a time….nicola

burqa

Dear friends,

it has been already 6 weeks in Afghanistan.. time is flying by. I wanted to write you before but it has been really difficult to gather my feelings and write them down in this email. In our daily activities seem that our lives are flat, nothing special happen, just normal activities every day. In these 6 weeks a lot has happened here, many stories to tell..

In this email, I wanna talk about women. It’s my favorite topic… Women are my heros, but here they are nothing, the most ungrateful human being in the world. For some, women are not even a human being.
I am placed  in a city in the south east of Afghanistan, close pakistan border. It is a conservative area. Women wear burqa and is not allowed not to wear it because men cannot look at women belonging to other men. When they go out, they should always accompanied by a man. This culture is really sensitive about gender separation, women should not look at men. When we have general staff meeting or celebration, women and men are separated. They cannot talk with men. For us it’s different, we can talk with them, but rarely we are taking into account. Some men don’t even look at you when you talk, if a man say something to a man, it’s a different story that they will take for sure into account. If I say something to a man, often I am just a woman talking. We cannot touch men or even attempt to have a discussion about women or deep talk. Some men are very kind and respectful. I believe, I hope, they are the same with their wives. They live in big family, around 20 people in a house and they share everything.

All this seems strict, very hard .. It is. But I will never try to judge them for this.
There is something amazing I wanna talk about with you.. It’s inside the hospital. It’s a women environment, there are no men, they are not allowed to enter. Everyday I walk through the door that connect the compound with the hospital, when I enter the hospital is like entering into a special place. Midwives love the hospital, is the only place they can behave how they want, they don’t wear burqa and you can see their beauty. They are beautiful with long black hair and that smile… Everyday I receive so many hugs. I have never received so many hugs in my life! They are so tender, affectionate with us and amongst them too. This is probably because they don’t receive love in their lives, And you can tell that they are happy to be in the hospital to be themselves, without being checked by men.

When I am around the hospital, they often call me to have chai, tea, with them. We sit together, we talk about our cultures and of course they ask me if I am married or if I have got some children.. I ask then the same question to them.. They are all young, most of them married with already 2-3 children. One day I asked to the postnatal supervisor if she was married and she told me that she is single because men are mean and she doesn’t like them. I understood that something happened to her.. I didn’t dare to ask more.

I think I am falling in love with this group of women, gathering inside the hospital and sharing that bit of love they don’t receive out of this environment..
I want to end this email telling you a story of a young girl of 12-13 years old. She has been raped and got pregnant. She has been hidden the pregnancy for 9 months. When she started labor she is obliged to come to the hospital. She said to the parents that she has a myoma and needs to go to the hospital. The mother then understood that she was pregnant, the father has some doubts and said to her that if she is pregnant and give birth he will kill her. According to the culture a woman cannot bear a child if she is not married and should be killed if happens. SO she came to us, had a very difficult delivery. Unfortunately the baby died during birth. . She stayed all day in the hospital but the day after the birth, smiling, she said she needed to go back home. The father was outside waiting for her. We don’t know what happened, but the midwives said that for sure she will be killed.

I want to tell you that I am happy to be here, because I am finding out that is some part of the world women are not living a life but a nightmare. I am happy to witness that and to share with you. I cannot change a culture but I hope to bring a bit of love in this hospital. I have seen so many births in my 6 years of midwife, but never seen a birth without love like in afghanistan.  I hope a bit of kindness, love for these women. If I will achieve that, I don’t know if something for them will change, but worth it to try.

Merry Christmas to all, if you decide to have some presents under the Christmas tree, do not forget to make a wish for these women!

Hugs&Love

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welcoming back the light as a birthkeeper – setting your intentions

light

i sat down at my table last night as the dark came upon us in scotland in the mid-afternoon during the shortest day of the year – i closed my curtains and lit some candles and put pen to paper.  the candles shone brightly and warmed my heart with the love that was contained in the ones that were gifted from birthkeepers i helped along their path this year and the ones that were for lighting at birth and the baby came before the candle burnt out.  this is witchcraft 😉

i sank back into the restful, womb-full darkness and welcomed back the light into my world and my heart. verily out of the darkness comes light!

every so often at an auspicious time i set my intentions and assess what needs to be discarded.  this year i’ve been drawn to the camino de santiago and i’ve been fascinated with the pilgrims shedding their physical load as they let go of their spiritual baggage along the path. this is an essential blood letting and pruning to let new growth flourish, walk forward and let the magic come in.  my intentions were set for my whole life picture but i got to thinking about my work here as a birthkeeper.  its central to all that goes on in my world and needed extra thought and love and most of all tuning in.  its served me well to go through this process over the years and i wanted to share so it may be useful to those coming after me.

wysewomen are running a red tent in london in a couple of weeks at the start of the year and we made the intention it should have the theme of clarity as this is what we realise is crucial to sewing the seeds for the next year.  we are all great list writers and planners but we will often write generic titles such as “get fit” on these lists with no real step to be taken – clarity brings intention to fruition.

so what do you need to be clear about this year? i like to break it down into doable chunks.  what are your long-term goals? where are you going on your path as a birthkeeper? where do you see yourself in ten years? most importantly once you set these how do you get there? this year i’ve been blessed to come across the japanese term kaizen (read more about it here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen) loosely i’ve understood it to mean constant improvements in small steps to achieve greatness. i’ve been encouraging those i’m around in my workshops to identify what great things they want to achieve (healing the earth with gentle birth anyone?) and see what that first small step is towards that goal.

be clear about your intentions for this coming year. this year are you focusing on serving your local community? the women of the world? do you want to teach and grow the next generation? are you tired? do you need to be restful this year? would you like to improve health outcomes amongst your people? build the family? how much money would you like to make this year? do you want to stay broke like many birthkeepers? does this keep you holy? would you like to be able to meet your rent this year without struggle? would you like to earn so much that you finally put that deposit down on your own home? would you like to be fully abundant? where are your yearly markers? what do you really want?

i believe to really find the answers to those questions you need to think about what you need to let go of  what is serving you? what is growing you? what is nourishing you? what is serving the greater good and growing love in your community, nourishing the world.  how do all these things impact you and your family? to grow and blossom we need balance alongside adventure and a good intention.  if something is no longer serving you but you feel its a service to others you want to provide to the world/women/God you may choose to keep it.  if its damaging you you may need to think twice.  birthkeepers are renowned for running themselves into the ground – all of my heroines in this world keep black circles under the eyes and a generally worn down look which is entirely overshadowed by the beauty of the Godly service they do for the world. none the less it is there.

so what are you saying yes to this year? what are you saying no to? write it down, draw it, sing it out, shout it to the world and bring it to you. let me here about your plans 🙂

nicola mahdiyyah goodall is a revert muslim who grew up with hip hop based in edinburgh, scotland and london, england. she works with women trying and mainly succeeding to build circles of knowledge and community primarily with birth. she is also the director of wysewomen publishing and facilitates wysewomen workshops and red tent doula courses.