Decades of war have not only destroyed Afghani homes and cities, but also stripped generations of Afghanis of their very identities. In 2001, civil society was almost nonexistent in Afghanistan. War had crushed freedom of expression and open dialogue. Internal conflict left the country ethnically divided and continues to threaten the nation’s stability. Women and children have suffered disproportionately, not only from physical violence and destruction of families, but also from the psychological toll of a lifetime of war and oppression. Reza Deghati, through his organization AINA, is helping rebuild a strong civil society in Afghanistan through the diffusion of independent media. His model of rapid media training and emergency education focuses on empowering women and children in particular. This method is now being replicated across the globe through Reza’s new initiative: Open Mind.
In recent years, AINA has shaped an independent Afghan media by training local journalists (many of them women) in everything from photojournalism and video production to radio and broadcast management. In addition, AINA has led multiple nationwide education efforts, using both print media and innovative mobile cinema to reach millions across the country. These campaigns present topics as varied as vaccinations, tolerance, cultural history, and democracy. Since its inception, AINA has trained over one thousand women and men in media and communication skills, and has a ninety percent employment rate. Eight publications, including two women’s magazines and one children’s magazine, have been developed and reach millions in circulation. Thirty AINA-produced educational films have been viewed by over a million Afghanis across the country. AINA also supports women-led radio stations. In addition, the first documentary by an all-female production team in Afghanistan, produced by AINA, was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2005. After working for thirty years as a photojournalist in communities devastated by conflicts and wars, Reza Deghati recognized that in traditional relief efforts; all issues other than food, water, and infrastructure were neglected. He founded AINA in order to overcome the deeper evil that causes conflict: decades of psychological and cultural destruction.