She’s Running So They Can Write

I’m so excited to have the honour of introducing you to another inspirational woman who is making a mark on the world. She is a mum living in rural Australia who saw a need and figured she could do something to help.

Here’s the story of Sharni Montgomery and her journey for the women of Afghanistan.

How are you making your mark?

I am training to run 5kms to raise money for the Afghan Women’s Writers Project. I have over $2000 pledged so far and will hit the road to attempt the big run on January 8th 2011.

What is the AWWP?

The Afghan Women’s Writing Project began as an idea during novelist Masha Hamilton’s last trip to Afghanistan in November 2008. Her interest in Afghanistan was sparked in the late 1990s during the Taliban period, when it was one of the worst places in the world to be a woman.

Masha first visited the country in 2004 and was awed and inspired by the resolute courage of the women she met. When she returned, she saw doors were closing and life was again becoming more difficult, especially for women. She began to fear we could lose access to the voices of Afghan women if we didn’t act soon. The Afghan Women’s Writing Project is a volunteer organisation based in New York (but now with a Down Under Director!) whereby women receive ongoing mentoring from writers, screenwriters and journalists. The project is aimed at allowing Afghan women to have a direct voice in the world, not filtered through male relatives or members of the media. Many of these Afghan women have to go to extreme efforts to gain computer access in order to submit their writings, in English, to the project.

Why did you decide to make this commitment? Is there a personal
connection for you?

I am a writer. I have always been a writer. It is how I make sense of the world and has been since I was able to first write. My cupboards are chockablock with my memoirs and now my website, Sharnanigans, is where I write and express my stories and make sense of my life.

It was as though the AWWP website just ‘appeared’ to me. I read the stories by the women and I read about the organisation. I immediately understood how important it was to support this cause. I know how freeing and important writing has been for me in my life, and I wanted to help keep that gift alive for women whose lives and hardships I cannot even comprehend.

How’s it coming along?

I have been training since October 2010. In October I couldn’t run 200 metres without wanting to collapse. I started running on a treadmill but found it utterly boring. So I took to the country road and have built my distance slowly but surely. I am undergoing plenty of mental reconditioning and non-negotiable  daily training and felt like a superhero once I made it to 3km! This was BIG NEWS for me personally!

Where I live it is excruciatingly hot and we have a problem with locusts, flies, mosquitoes – you name it. This journey is definitely character building for me! I am getting tougher both mentally and physically and as I jog I keep the bigger picture in mind and it helps me realise how lucky I am to have the freedom to run and that keeps me from wallowing in self-pity.

What are your goals/hopes for this? How much do you hope to raise and what will it go towards with the AWWP?

I have raised over $2000 so far and have celebrity pledges and endorsements by Jane Kennedy, Sarah Wilson, Wil Anderson and Melinda Tankard-Reist. I have clothing kindly donated for my big run by Female For Life. I am hoping to achieve $10K which is a big ask in only 4 weeks. I have tried big business such as Nike, Dove, Avon, Gatorade and have had knockbacks. I am hoping to find some fantastic small businesses to support my cause, a rural woman doing something for women in Afghanistan.

A reporter from The Circle on Channel 10 has contacted me and there is talk of me appearing on the show afterwards!! This would mean massive exposure for the cause and/or any businesses that decided to join me.
I hope to bring awareness to the AWWP and the money will actually go to a Women’s Writing Hut in Kabul where money could be used for any of the following:

# A gift of $50 will provide Internet access for one writer.
# $100 pays for a month’s worth of printing supplies.
# $500 can ensure that the Women’s Writing Hut stays open for a month.
# $1,000 buys a laptop for an Afghan woman writer

For women looking for ways to impact the world by doing something to raise money and awareness, what advice would you give?

I firmly believe in being the change you want to see in the world. For me, pairing a personal goal up with a cause that is close to my heart has been a winning combination. Perhaps other women could do the same. Perhaps there is something that they wish they could achieve personally but need the extra bit of oomph. Get online, research areas that interest you- the world is a big place and there a lot of interesting causes out there and a lot of people whose problems are worse than your jiggling thighs!

By blogging and creating an online community I have not only stayed accountable, I have received so much support, and my whole journey has been overwhelming. I am so motivated to do this and now realise that it is a blessing just to have the freedom to go running every morning. Life could be a lot worse and for those who do not share the freedoms we do, the least we can do is allow their stories to be heard.

I’d love as much support as I can muster for my run on January 8th. Pledges can be made by visiting my website and contacting me. Payments are to be made in January. Further details to come. 

I’d be happy to answer any questions from readers looking to do similar via my website!

*****

How inspirational! This is such a wonderful idea – overcoming our own challenge (eg running) to help someone else in their challenge. Thanks Sharni – can’t wait to see the final tally!

Please donate generously to Sharni’s cause and encourage a fellow sister in her desire to reach out and help others. She’s also after publicity and sponsorship for the cause so if you have any contacts, please email the link to this post or Sharni’s website and before you know it we’ll have some great support rallied for Sharni and the women of Afghanistan.

Keep up with Sharni’s journey through her blog, Twitter (@Sharnanigans) and Facebook.

Also, pop over to the AWWP site and read some of the amazing pieces posted by Afghani women. Here’s an exerpt:

“…I can’t share what is going on with my closest friends because they blame me for forgetting I am a woman and choosing my own husband, ignoring the customs. I am proud of my strengths, and that I stood up against everything. But I am destroyed inside; my soul is hardened… I bought my freedom, yet I can’t breathe. I bought my freedom, but not my happiness.

My husband reads the stories of famous men to me at night and he recalls my own energy. I am waiting for the day when I can get my master’s degree, and then open a school of ideology and teach our people to respect human rights so that the next, next, next, next, and next generations won’t have our destiny.

It is childish and silly, but every morning I open my notebook and list new desires, hopes, and plans for my unknown tomorrow…”

Images: Sharnanigans and AWWProject

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