The Sahar Speaks Training Caravan set to roll off to Kabul

By Lisa Essex, Trainer for Sahar Speaks

It started with a late-night discussion via social media.

Amie Ferris-Rotman, founder of Sahar Speaks, and also one of the smartest, most interesting reporters whom I have ever trained, messaged me about her plans to launch a training programme for female Afghan journalists. 

I’ve known Amie since she was a graduate trainee at Reuters, where I taught her the bread-and-butter skills of international journalism – from reading a balance sheet, to avoiding sexual harassment.

Over the years we’ve chatted during our various assignments around the world. I, usually from somewhere in former Yugoslavia. She, from places like Moscow or Kabul. We carried on talking after I left Reuters, and I turned increasingly to working in the developing world with young journalists. 

So when Amie, as a Stanford Knight Journalism Fellow and full of plans to give Afghan women the training they deserve, asked me for my thoughts, I had many to offer. I’ve delivered training in more than 20 countries, mainly for Non-Governmental Organisations, and seen the disparity between what organisations offer and what local journalists actually need.

Specific skills, content, safety – the list of what the training would need to supply filled up the little message box as we went back and forth on Facebook chat.  A daunting amount to cram into one week.

“But you must have a female trainer,” I typed furiously to Amie, (thinking of a training course I’d seen on pregnancy and childbirth, taught exclusively by men!).

Amie agreed, but was concerned that the trainer needed to be resilient, and not just to the specific challenges of Kabul. No-one wants to babysit a trainer, whose teaching qualifications are good, but who can’t cope with a rat in the training room (I put a bucket over them), or who brings all their work on a flashdrive and finds there’s no electricity in the training venue (Top tip: bring hard copies of EVERYTHING and buy a roll of cheap wallpaper to use as a flip-chart)

“Someone who is gutsy and not afraid to go to Kabul,” typed Amie.

“I’m not gutsy. But if you find a donor, I will teach it for you,” I signed off, and headed to bed.

And here we are, two years later. With Sahar Speaks already making waves, and making a difference. The upcoming training in Kabul will bring together a group of Afghan women who are already on the journalism road, and who will get the practical training to help them finesse their chosen profession.  It’s going to be grueling (I know, I wrote the training course!), but let’s face it, you don’t become a female journalist in one of the worst countries on earth to be a woman unless you are used to hard work. And I promise there will be a lot of fun, too.

I always knew that one day, one of my journalism protégés would hire me. I’m so glad it was Amie.  And I’m so proud to be working for Sahar Speaks.

Lisa Essex is a British journalist and trainer, who lives in South Carolina, and heads up 4th Estate Media Training and Consultancy. She has two children, a long-suffering husband, and too many animals.  She wanders the developing world, spreading the Good News about journalism and relying heavily on the kindness of strangers.