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The origin of Nai Qala, its name and the vision behind it

Nai Qala’s president, Taiba Rahim, speaks about the origins of the name of the organization.

Today I would like to share how the Nai Qala Association began. First of all, what does Nai Qala mean? 

Nai (ني) is the bamboo plant. But Nai also means a flute (the musical instrument). Qala means a fortified city. So Nai Qala is “city of bamboo”. People say that there were many bamboo plants in this valley in the past, though there are none there today.

However, there is also another story about Nai Qala’s origin. Nai Qala is located in the district of Qara Bagh, in Ghazni Province (south-central Afghanistan). The Ghaznavid dynasty ruled Ghazni from 998 to 1030 – part of an empire that extended into India.  

Legend has it that in the Nai Qala region there was a prison. Travelers who passed through this region reported hearing the sound of home-made flutes – played by prisoners passing the long days. So the name of Nai Qala could be linked to the “city of bamboo” or to the “city of flutes”. 

My father was born and raised in the Nai Qala valley. Despite its rich history, the area has been forgotten for centuries. When my father was growing up, Nai Qala had no school, no clinic, no road and absolutely no infrastructure. He was a humble and modest shepherd but with a great vision. I am one of his nine children. He was convinced that only through education could we extract ourselves from poverty and isolation. 

He made a decision that was both courageous and unusual for someone from that region. He left Nai Qala and moved to a town where it was possible for his children to go to school. All of us children got a decent education. I am very grateful for that and today I want to honor my father and continue his vision. 

In 2007 I created an association with the aim of building schools for the thousands of girls and boys in those remote regions. I named this association Nai Qala because:

  • This area is a reminder of some of the great periods of Afghan history – Ghazni was a key city in the empires of Cyrus of Persia and Alexander the Great, it was a major trading centre along the Silk Road from China to the West as well as during the Ghaznavid period a thousand years ago. Even if today our country is going through a tough period of war, we Afghans must remind ourselves of our history to help us restore our identity and build a sense of pride in ourselves…
  • I want to honor the village that was the home of my father and mother who so courageously moved away from the only world they knew to give their children a better future. It must have been a difficult choice…
  • I also want to be reminded every day of who I am. No matter what I do, where I go or whether I succeed or fail, I am reminded constantly of my background – a desperately poor village where the children had nothing to dream of or hope for. 

Today NQA has expanded its activities in many other rural regions but I shall always remain committed to that village, and others like it. I remain committed to my country which, I believe, needs my contribution if ever we are going to give Afghanistan’s children hope in the future.”

Taiba Rahim
Nai Qala Association

Building policies to support a strong organization

The team in Kabul has been developing and refining a dozen policies over the past few months.

Policies are generally principles, rules, and guidelines formulated or adopted by an organization to reach its long-term goals. Policies, as well as their inherent procedures, are designed to influence and determine all major decisions and actions, and all activities that take place within the boundaries set by them. 

A policy as a guide for action 

Policies generally outline the rules, they provide principles that guide actions, set roles and responsibilities, reflect the values and beliefs, and state the intention of an organization to do something. Over the past months, Nai Qala employees have worked on a dozen policies that will support them in their everyday working life and that will guide their actions towards a sustainable organization. 

Nai Qala’s policies cover various areas such as harassment, ethical image, fundraising, gender, privacy, procurement, human resources, finance, social media, conflicts of interest, communication, etc. Working on the development of such policies has allowed employees to take full ownership and reinforce the team spirit. Above all, these new policies will make the administration easier and clearer, and allow Nai Qala’s staff to get on with the organization’s core activities more efficiently and effectively.

Opening ceremony of Nai Qala’s photo exhibition

An opening ceremony of Nai Qala’s photo exhibition was held in a packed ACKU room

On November 14, more than 300 people gathered in a packed room of the Afghan Centre of Kabul University (ACKU) to attend the opening ceremony of the photo exhibition on the power of education in remote rural regions of Afghanistan.ACKU director, Mr. Abdul Wahid Wafa, Mrs. Fiona Gall from ACBAR and Mrs. Taiba Rahim, president of the Nai Qala Association made speeches on the importance of education whilst Mrs. Haris Coussidis, photographer and author of the more than 50 photos displayed on the walls of the Centre, shared her message through a recorded message. Mr. Wafa summarized the spirit of the event by declaring that “the exhibition is about the hope of the new generation of Afghanistan and the simple livelihood of the people of the central regions of Afghanistan with a great hope for the future of their children“.

An inspiring and hopeful speech

In the ACKU room, one could spot several young women wearing red headscarves; these were former students of Nai Qala school who, on that day, proudly played the role of hostesses. Ms. Shegufa, who had been a pupil in Nai Qala village and who used to study in the open air until a school was built there, took on the role of chairwoman and embodied the Association’s message of hope and empowerment for girls. Ms. Shegufa herself talked of the inspirational example set by Nai Qala’s president as she “shows through her actions that women can be equal to men in the community”.  Shegufa, pointed out that “the President moved the audience and instilled hope because activities in such remote areas are unprecedented”.

Nai Qala’s President’s speech left its mark on many participants who attended the ceremony, like Nadia: “Mrs. Rahim is truly an inspiration to all young Afghans. Her speech highlighted empowerment, unity, hope and commitment, solidarity to succeed, and never losing hope and always being optimistic about the future. Pursuing her vision is a way to strengthen and respect fundamental human rights in our country and to give a different image of Afghanistan. I am pleased to have been one of the participants at the opening of this inspiring and truly stimulating exhibition.” A young man who spoke in front of the audience made an emotional statement by saying, “I lost my father last year, I thought the world was over… today I feel like it’s a new day with a ray of hope”.

The majority of the audience was made up of young university students who left the ceremony inspired by the talks and with a renewed hope for their country.

The exhibition “Hope, Dignity and Commitment: The Power of Education”, 52 photos by Haris Coussidis for the Nai Qala Association on the role of reconstruction and education in remote districts of Bamyan province, can be viewed at ACKU in Kabul until 31 December, 2018.

Photo exhibition in Kabul

Photo exhibition in Kabul – November 14 to November 30, 2018.

Nai Qala is proud and grateful to be able to present a photography exhibition in partnership with the Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University (ACKU), in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Through this event Nai Qala will present the association’s work in the rural areas of Afghanistan and in particular will have the opportunity to raise awareness within the capital of the challenges and hopes of the rural communities.

Click here to see the full program.

Photographic exhibition

A photographic exhibition shows a positive image of Afghanistan and the changes that are taking place there.

Since 2007 the Nai Qala Association, through education has helped to create hope and opportunities in one of the most isolated areas of Afghanistan. Despite extreme poverty and the remoteness of the communities it is not despair and distress that we found there, but dignity and determination.

In 2017, to mark its 10th anniversary, Nai Qala asked a professional photographer, Haris Coussidis, who visited Afghanistan to take photos of the association’s activities, to make a pictorial record of the projects and their impact on the communities. This photographic report is part of a campaign to show the world that Afghans are committed to education, particularly for girls.

The association’s president presented the work to the city and canton of Geneva, who decided to support the association for an exhibition, which took place at “La Rotonde du Mont Blanc” from the 5th to the 25th March 2018.

This exhibition titled, “Women’s education, a hope for Afghanistan”, took place during the Geneva Equality week and the Human Rights Council, which was aptly symbolic for our work. Through these photographs we wanted to show a different side to Afghanistan, a positive image of men, women and children just like any others in the world – an image of a people with hope, aspiration and in search of opportunities. We wished to share the bravery of the parents in these rural regions, who despite poverty encouraged their girls to go to school to prepare a better future.

With particularly changeable weather, Nai Qala showcased on the Geneva lakeside. The exhibition was inaugurated with a press conference and opened with a debate which was covered by Swiss and international media.

Click here for a snapshot of the pictures that were shown in Geneva, including their captions.

Access the exhibition slide show here.

Nai Qala Association is showcasing in Geneva

The Nai Qala Association presents a photography exhibition on its activities in Afghanistan.

See for yourselves Nai Qala Association’s activities, come and join us in “Rotonde du Mont-Blanc”, in Geneva from March 5th to the 25th.

Admission is free.

For the past 10 years the Nai Qala Association has helped create hope and opportunity through education in one of the most remote regions of Afghanistan. In spite of extreme poverty and isolation, these communities we saw not hopelessness and despair but dignity and determination.

The Nai Qala Association engaged a professional photographer, Ms Haris Coussidis, to make a pictorial record of some of our activities in Afghanistan in 2017. We are very grateful to Haris.

Through these photographs, we wish to show a different image of Afghanistan; a positive image where Afghan men, women and children are the same as anybody else on this planet – an image of people with hope, aspiration and in search of opportunities.

The pictures in this exhibition will be available for sale. The funds will go to support Nai Qala Association projects in Afghanistan. For details please email at info@nai-qala.org

2007-2017: 10 years of changes

Click here to enlarge picture
In 2017, Nai Qala is celebrating a decade of activity in remote areas of the provinces of Bamyan and Ghazni. For the past 10 years, Nai Qala has been contributing to creating hope and opportunity in isolated communities.

To date, Nai Qala has successfully completed 10 projects, including the construction of eight schools for over 8000 students (70% girls and 30% boys) and a health clinic in a population of 50 000 people,.

Over 130 teachers are now teaching in decent conditions and are hired and paid by the State. The Nai Qala’s construction projects created job opportunities for 700 people in villages where there are few opportunities for employment.

These projects succeeded because we built trust with the people, because the people in turn had confidence in our ability to help them realize their aspirations, and because our partners and donors placed their trust in us.

It is amazing to think that the organization has been engaged in these remote regions for 10 years. It is even more remarkable that members of the communities have a more positive outlook on life; they have hopes and ambitions for themselves and they realize that their lives have a value. Their hopes give us motivation and hope for the future of Nai Qala.

Training for staff

Every year Nai Qala supports its staff in their professional development by sending them on training courses relevant to their responsibilities.

In August 2017, Mr. Ali Reza successfully completed a 6-day course on organizational development and leadership in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Congratulations!

After the course, Mr. Ali Reza said: “I am sure it is a good and right investment because human resources are the most important resource in an organization and the organization’s success depends on its human resources“.

In 2016 and 2017 local Nai Qala employees participated in more than 25 courses, offering capacity-building in a wide selection of subjects such as advocacy, human resource management, monitoring and evaluation, human rights, English language skills, hygiene, finance, pedagogy, and training in both Early Childhood Education and Community-Based Education.

In order to strengthen organizational capacity, Nai Qala’s president attended and successfully completed a “Future Leaders Program” course held at Wolfson College, Oxford (England) and got a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Modern Management for Non-Profit Organizations, held at Geneva University (Switzerland).