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Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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Reza Deghati, a world-famous photographer, is helping build a strong and democratic civil society in Afghanistan through the development and diffusion of independent media. Reza's model of rapid media training and "emergency education" focuses in particular on empowering women and children. It is now being replicated in areas affected by war and conflict across the globe through Reza's initiative, 'Open Mind.'

About Project

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Reza is the founder of AINA, a network that fosters the development of civil society through the education of women and children, and through sustainable media and communication outlets. To help shape an independent Afghan media, AINA since 2001 has trained local journalists (many of them women) in everything from photojournalism and video production to radio and broadcast management. AINA also has led nationwide education efforts that use print media and innovative mobile cinema to reach millions across the country, presenting topics as varied as vaccination, tolerance, cultural history, and democracy. In short, AINA empowers citizens, giving them the education and skills needed to create media, reinforce democracy, resist oppression and speak out in a country where they have been voiceless for a generation. Decades of war and destruction not only have destroyed Afghani lives, homes, and entire cities, but have stripped generations of Afghanis of their very identities. After working for 30 years as a photojournalist with communities devastated by conflict and wars, Reza recognized that traditional relief efforts focused almost entirely on food, housing, and infrastructure. Issues related to what he calls "wounded souls" are neglected. Reza founded AINA to overcome decades of psychological and cultural destruction in Afghanistan. He does so through education and media training - tools crucial to citizen empowerment and a strong civil society. Reza has said numerous times that educated children and an independent media in Afghanistan represent a vastly more powerful force in the battle against extremism, oppression and intolerance, than any army. Since its inception, AINA has trained more than 1,000 women and men in media and communication skills, with more than 90 percent now employed using these skills. Eight publications, including two women's magazines and one children's magazine, Parvaz, now reach millions. Thirty AINA-produced mobile educational films have been viewed by more than 1 million Afghanis, and female-led radio stations broadcast across the country. The first AINA-produced documentary from an all-female team was nominated for an Emmy award in 2005. All AINA's efforts are meant to create sustainable media enterprises that are locally produced, managed and staffed. Reza chose Afghanistan for piloting his model because of his close connection to the country and because he thought that if his model worked in Afghanistan-one of the world's harshest political and geographical climates-it could work anywhere. "Open Mind" will carry many of AINA's strategies across the world, first in countries that are suffering or have recently suffered through turmoil, including refugee crises, wars or natural disasters. In particular, "Open Mind" will continue to test the concept of "emergency education," which is tailored to the specific context of displacement and refugee camps, where children have been deprived of education for months or years. All educational materials are mobile (e.g., buses and cinema vans), based on visual learning and produced with the help of local women, who gain employment.