The Communication Initiative Aïna – Afghanistan

AINA = Education, training and information for the development of independent media and cultural expression in Afghanistan.

AINAworld.org was founded on August 2, 2001 by renowned photojournalist Reza. The non-governmental organization Aïna is working to build and develop a thriving civil society through independent media and culture projects.

Over the last three years, within the emerging democratic process and the reconstruction of a national identity in Afghanistan, Aïna has developed far-reaching projects throughout the country: 8 media and culture centers in eight provinces that provide support for the leading news publications of the country as well as video production and training; the first educational mobile cinema; the first Afghan school of photojournalism, Afghanistan’s first women’s radio station; and the first Afghan advertising and communications agency.

To reach our objectives, Aïna brings together a dedicated team of volunteers, media professionals and Afghans, of whom one third are women and a large number are experienced journalists. The training offered by Aïna has thus far benefited nearly 1000 journalists and students. Through our supported publications, over 400 000 readers have been exposed to Aina’s work. Close to one million spectators have taken part in Aïna’s film screenings, and over 3 million listeners have tuned in to Aïna’s radio programs.

Aïna offers specialized audiovisual training to women in Afghanistan (filming, photography, journalism, etc.), encouraging women to speak out, and keeping them informed through national information campaigns about important issues such as health, labour rights and the democratic process to name a few.

Aïna also places an emphasis on children’s education through its bi-monthly magazine Parvaz. This publication acts as a window to the world for Afghan children, teaching diversity and cooperation to those who will become the next generation of Afghan leaders.

Aina is providing the tools of freedom through a Multimedia Training Institute, and offering Afghans access to the latest in technology and multimedia equipment.

The Communication Initiative – Experiences – Aïna – Afghanistan – Summary:

Founded in 2001, Aïna is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation (NGO) carrying out education, training, and information dissemination for the development of independent media and cultural expression in Afghanistan. Aïna’s teams work in Paris, France; Kabul, Afghanistan; and New York, NY and Washington, DC (USA). Motivated by the belief that a free press is the foundation of a democracy, these teams undertake video, film, radio, photojournalism, and advertising/communications projects and educational endeavours throughout the country. Aïna’s goals include providing information, helping organisations communicate more efficiently in the country, promoting democratic debate, and creating a cadre of journalists with the capacity to freely express their perspectives through media.

Main Communication Strategies
: Aïna’s strategy involves providing the face-to-face training, resources, and support needed to create and sustain Afghanistan’s independent media voice. It was launched at a time when this voice might actually be listened to – the fall of the Taliban, the emergence of the democratic process, and the reconstruction of civil society.

Various kinds of media are tools for engendering change, and are selected to suit the mediamakers and the communities to which messages are directed. For example, in a country with an illiteracy rate of 85%, Aïna has made radio programme development a priority. Its radio team produces and distributes a weekly bilingual (Dari and Pashto) 30-minute talk show called “Myane Mah” (”Between us”), focusing on political issues, as well as the bi-monthly 40-minute “Dar Velayat Chi Megsarat” (”What’s Happening in the Provinces?”). This team also creates, produces, and disseminates radio spots and dramas for NGOs and international organisations.

Some of Aïna’s other pursuits include:

Training – Aïna forms local teams – particularly teams of women – and trains them in disciplines such as communication, journalism, and photography. Both men and women are being trained as photojournalists as part of an initiative to enable newspapers to hire and rely on experienced local photographers.

The Women’s Film Group – Fourteen Afghan women were trained as camerawomen and video journalists during a 12-month course that involved traveling throughout Afghanistan and shooting a 52-minute documentary called “Afghanistan: Unveiled”. A second film about women’s rights in Afghanistan, “Shadows”, was also produced.

Supported Publications – Those trained by Aïna create and distribute several newspapers and magazines in an effort to inform, educate, and engage the Afghan population. Among them are the independent newspaper Kabul Weekly and Parvaz, a full-colour monthly magazine for children aged 6 to 14. Produced by Afghan journalists with children’s input, Parvaz’s colourful images, educational issues, and cultural stories are designed to build a bridge between parents, teachers, and kids. For details about other publications, visit the < "/redirect.cgi?r=http://www.ainaworld.org/">Aïna website (click on “Projects”).

Voice of Afghan Women – Aïna, in collaboration with UNESCO and the Women Publishing Group, started community radio programming for Afghan Women on March 8 2003 (International Women’s Day). Six female journalists create and broadcast educational, development-based, and entertainment programmes in both Dari and Pashto.

Educational Mobile Cinema – In an effort to reach populations outside of traditional broadcast media, Aïna has created 9 mobile units that screen educational movies that are produced in Afghanistan by Afghans.

Video Production Unit – In addition to producing and editing videos for the Mobile Cinema, this unit produces broadcast-quality reports for Afghan and foreign television. Among the subjects covered: the danger of landmines, disarmament, health, the environment, rights, the new constitution and the electoral process. The unit also produces institutional films and publicity spots for other agencies.

Independent Photo Agency – In the development phase as of this writing, this agency will work to create and share accurate images about what is happening in Afghanistan throughout the world. A website will be set up to display the images and to make them available for sale and/or licensing to foreign press agencies, businesses, and cultural institutions.

Communication Agency: Darya – Aïna created an advertising and communications agency to help foster the financial sustainability of independent Afghan media. Meant to be a resource for international agencies, NGOs, and other private-sector businesses, Darya offers a range of graphic design services. It also exists to train Afghans seeking to work in the fields of communications and graphics.

Regional Development – Established in June 2002, Kabul’s Afghan Center of Media and Culture undertakes media projects (written press, radio, video, photography, and cinema). It also serves as a meeting place for journalists and Afghan intellectuals, a training site, and a news room. This model has been replicated in 7 additional provinces throughout the country. These centres form a network that strives to get communities involved in the revival of local cultural life through training, expositions, the use of libraries, cultural events, group discussions, and urban cinema.

Development Issues: Independent Media Development, Political Development, Children, Women, Free Speech.

Key Points: “Aïna is currently comprised of a team of 25 volunteers and media professionals, employs 250 Afghans (including 130 journalists) and gives training courses to more than 300 journalists and students. Publications supported by Aïna reach over 250,000 readers. The mobile cinema has reached almost one million, and our radio programs have 3 to 5 million listeners throughout the country.” (Read all the rest of this long presentation on comminit.com).

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