The Wells College Activism Symposium will feature a special keynote address by Mariam Raqib '97 titled Global Activism and Sustainable Development. The talk will take place at 1:30 p.m. Friday, March 28, in the Hostetter Lecture Room (209) of Stratton Hall.
Raqib is the founder and director of Afghanistan Samsortya, a non-profit organization based in Massachusetts. Samsortya is a Pashtu word meaning "revitalization of the environment"; the phrase expresses the vision of Mariam’s efforts in the war-torn and decimated country of Afghanistan.
During 30 years of conflict, most of Afghanistan's traditional farms and vast forests have been completely eradicated. Raqib observed that the hardest hit were women and children in rural areas facing malnutrition with bleak prospects for improvement. She also recognized that traditional aid groups suffer from inflated bureaucratic structures and impose top-down direction aimed at changing the lifestyles and methods to more “traditional” standards.
Raqib instead set about creating a new approach to assisting those in dire need in her homeland, one of nurturing and empowerment. To do so, she began knitting together a wide-spread online community of supporters and collaborators that could help solicit funding and assist in constructing the basic framework of her new organization, Afghanistan Samsortya. She also initiated contact with local on-the-ground citizens in Afghanistan to enlist the backbone members willing to work towards her vision of empowering the communities to re-establish food sovereignty and begin replanting the once plentiful forests across the countryside.
Mariam’s tireless work as orchestrator of these far-flung efforts has resulted in the establishment of nurseries that propagate and disperse thousands of trees each year, employ local women who coordinate family gardens, fruit tree gifting, and management of ongoing nursery operations. As a result of input from the communities, Afghanistan Samsortya has recently begun a program to raise and husband livestock and poultry to further provide eggs, milk, and fertilizer to families within local communities.