Three female journalists have taken the bold step of forming Afghanistan’s first Women’s Journalism Center with the aim of training female journalism graduates and helping them find media-related jobs in Herat and other nearby provinces.

Eight years ago, Herat University began offering a journalism program that included women students. But the female graduates, “about twenty a year, end up teaching in schools because of the lack of positions in local media or because of social pressure,” said Fawzia Fakhri, director of the new center. “We decided to start this center in order to encourage females who spent four years studying journalism in school.”

Being a woman journalist in Afghanistan can be extremely dangerous. Women who venture into that field routinely face harassment and threats, and have sometimes been killed. The dangers have resulted in fewer women studying to become journalists. But the new center hopes to counter this trend. It will support women journalists both by helping them find work and helping them improve as journalists, Ms. Fakhri said.

Ms Fakhri, a single woman in her early 30s, struggled past countless upheavals to get to where she stands now. As a young and successful student, she graduated from Grade 12 in 1996. She immediately found herself in the faculty of dentistry in Kabul, with hopes of becoming a doctor, only to be interrupted two months later as the Taliban seized power and banned women from holding jobs, attending universities, and going outside their homes unescorted.

She then joined a nurses’ school, the only option opened for a medical career at the time, but never practiced it. After the fall of the Taliban, Ms. Fakhri returned to the university to pursue her dream, but she didn’t dare share it with her family at the time.

Today, after four years as a newscaster for Radio Sahar, an all-women radio station, and contributing to Radio Watandar and a few local magazines, Ms. Fakhri has decided to help other women who have made the same choice.

“It is very important for me that women feel comfortable coming here, and that they can use the Internet in a feminine space,” Ms. Fakhri said. “There have, in the past, been three journalism centers but I never went to the meetings because they never invited women. This is the place for women journalists.”

The center, three months old, is in the process of setting up a website and intends to hold practical courses for women journalists as well as establish a radio and television station for women journalists in Herat.

Adalah Kabiri, a teacher at the journalism school at Herat University, applauded the opening of the center. “This is a very comfortable place for all women who work with the media,” Kabiri said. “This center has opened the door for women journalists and can help women improve their knowledge.”

At this stage, the journalism centre, which has already received four computers from the Italian Provincial Reconstruction Team, will require more support to implement all its projects, Ms. Fakhri said. “We need support from the government and international organizations.”

By Seeta