9 October 2023
In this year’s Dineen Lecture*, students heard how, in the most difficult of circumstances, women and girls in Afghanistan built a network of community forums that helped them solve many of the difficult issues they were facing. Our speaker, Samantha Leader, consultant in community development, was keen to share the story of how this came about with her young audience, introducing her talk by saying, “I have a great belief that you are the future and that the world will be what you guys make of it… Don’t necessarily do what I did but learn from what I did.”
Samantha aptly referenced the Mission Impossible films when describing her arrival in Afghanistan in the 1990s: an instruction manual in her hand; a plane spiralling down to land the better to avoid being shot; and thousands of dollars in cash in her possession. Samantha’s mission, which she had chosen to accept, was – working for the UN - to facilitate and support the indigenous process of repair and recovery in the country.
As Samantha told her compelling true story, she emphasised the importance of talk and consultation. In her case, she brought about, with difficulty and persistence, the opportunity to consult with Afghan women, which led to the first of what became a network of community forums and local governance in Afghanistan, providing jobs, training, medical services and much more.
Samantha concluded by asking the students to think whether, if women in far more difficult circumstances in Afghanistan can bring about change through local organisation, could something like that happen here? Here, the status quo exists, but is it working? Could we get more dynamic, better attended public meetings going using the things we take for granted, but which not everyone has - freedom, opportunity and education?
There were lots of lessons to be learned from the work that Samantha did. Thank you to Samantha for an inspiring true tale well told, and to WPSA for enabling us all to hear it.
* The Dineen Lecture is financed by a gift from parents, following Dr Dineen’s retirement as Headmistress of Woldingham in 1997. It was her wish that an annual lecture be delivered by a notable person, or persons, whose personality and achievements can provide inspiration to the girls.