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“It takes a village … ”

The Project

The One Village, A Thousand Voices radio drama episodes feature young Afghans as they seek a voice in village-level justice decision-making. Each curriculum-based story has a rule-of-law theme as background, and after the drama is broadcast, the audience is invited to take part in a call-in/discussion program to delve deeper into the issues.

The initial 18 episodes are designed in 6-episode story arcs, with each arc being a self-contained short-story that has continuity and shared characters with other story arcs.  Equal Access Afghanistan undertakes the writing and production, under guidance from USIP. The stories are based in a true-to-life rural, Afghan village, where land disputes and family issues are frequent subject of conflict, where there is debate about the application of civil or Sharia or customary law, and where power relations and favors and privilege all muddy the waters. Through the 3 story arcs, some young people feel that they should have more of a role in justice decision-making, they start to work with each other to that end, and they make some headway in convincing their elders.

Rule-of-Law Curriculum

Starting with the USIP rule-of-law curriculum developed for training Afghan youth justice advocates (a companion project), a revised curriculum was created with 12 topics, each topic including: key learning points; noteworthy textual references, historical information, and cultural context; an example real-world legal case; suggestions for discussion program guests and notes on any issues that would require additional editorial care.  After careful review by USIP staff, the curriculum was reviewed by a Kabul University law professor expert in Sharia and civil law, by an Afghan Family Court judge, by TLO (a USIP justice partner organization in Afghanistan that works in many Pashtun areas) and by a leading Afghan women’s rights organization.  The radio drama writers ensure that each episode is linked to a key learning point and they take inspiration from the real-world examples: for example the rule-of-law story in episodes 7 through 12 is based on a real-world land dispute.


Youth Empowerment Curriculum

USIP worked with Afghan youth organizations to develop a youth empowerment curriculum, starting with the question: why do some youth succeed in taking part in community decision-making, while Afghan culture is largely antithetical to that? Using participatory methods based in the work of Paolo Freire and Augusto Boal, USIP undertook a power analysis of a theoretical Afghan village. Workshop participants identified reasons why some youth are accepted as participants in decision-making, and how they overcome the traditional Afghan reluctance to allow youth to have a substantive role.  For example, by showing resilience in the face of resistance and by leveraging the few resources they have. The participants then analyzed the institutions within the village – the family, the school, the mosque – asking if those institutions used their power to help Afghan youth acquire the skills needed to be accepted as participants in decision-making, and concluding that most did not. Finally the workshop participants asked how those institutions could change to use their power positively to help youth. The youth empowerment curriculum is based on this analysis and provides a series of skills, resources and tactics that youth can use to their advantage in the slow process that is social change.

Audience Interaction

After drama episodes, audience members are asked a question about the characters and issues, and can respond by SMS, cellphone or social media. Selected answers are written into future episodes or used in discussion programs. The radio drama itself is broadcast on Monday and repeated on Friday, the repeat followed by a call-in/discussion program that focuses on the rule-of-law issue in the drama episode. This provides the audience with opportunities to ask questions and relate the drama to their lives.  Experienced Radio Azadi hosts moderate the discussion and experts answer questions.

National Broadcasts

The radio drama episodes are broadcast by Radio Azadi in Dari and Pashto on Mondays and repeated on Fridays, with the repeat broadcast followed by the discussion program. Radio Azadi, the most popular radio network in Afghanistan, broadcasts on shortwave, AM and FM, satellite and internet, providing the greatest possible reach across Afghanistan, including the rural villages that are the primary target audience for the series.



The Village

The village is located in a valley, surrounded with a range of hills to the east and west. To the south, the peaks of the White Mountains appear covered with snow. A roaring river flows from the mountains, dividing the village into two.

During King Zahir’s government, the population of the village was much smaller. No-one had more than one or two sets of clothes, and people were eating cornbread, some special green vegetables, Quroot (dried buttermilk) and dry meat. During Dawood Khan’s republic, the village developed to some extent, the government distributed different types of improved seeds and fertilizer, and people received the chance to work in agricultural projects outside the villages. Some youths even went abroad to receive civilian and military studies.

During Noor Mohammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin’s government, many lands were taken from the rich people and distributed to the poor, but few people like the Soviet-ideology and many in the village resisted. The government-bombarded people’s homes, some villagers immigrated to neighboring countries and a group moved to other parts of Afghanistan. With the Soviet invasion, the villagers openly started Jihad for the protection of their land, some of them were martyred and some disabled. With the success of holy Jihad, other villagers returned from neighboring countries. They rebuilt the ruins and once again started their routine lives. Refugee life had brought positive change in the villagers, as people learned different skills in the neighboring countries.

But the village suffered again during the civil war, when bitter loyalty issues divided the villagers, some who took up arms again. With the Taliban regime, the village was safe, but the villagers suffered drought, poverty, education ended and some villagers once again became refugees. With the advent of the current government some families that emigrated for thirty years, returned to the village. More technology is used, but many things remain the same.

The Main Characters

Each character has a documented history that the writers use to ensure that character actions are consistent. Here are just a few things about each main character:

Akram Khan is 53 years old, a passionate and furious man. At home everybody is afraid of him.

  • Hobby: He likes plowing oxen; he changes the oxen from time to time.
  • His favorite food: He likes Shaftal (a kind of green vegetable) cooked in sheep oil.
  • Fear: As his son is simple, he fears the family will lose influence in the future.

Khudaidad is a 35 year-old man. He worked in match factory while he was refugee. He hasn’t studied at school.

  • Secret: Once he collected corn beside the lorry and wanted to cook/fry them on fire as a result of which the lorry caught fire.
  • An important event in his life: He used harmful chemical substance instead of shampoo and now doesn’t have a hair on his head.
  • His friend’s viewpoint about him/her: His friends consider him innocuous and a simple person.

Nazo is 40 years old, she is a grief-stricken widow.

  • Hobby: Keeping hens.
  • Favorite cloths: Black round skirt cloths.
  • The important event in her life: She can’t forget the image of her husband who died in a traffic accident.

Zarlakhta is a 23 year-old young woman. She has studied up to 6th grade, but after her father’s death she left the school.

  • Favorite food: Chips and bulani of eggplant.
  • Vision: She dreamed of becoming a doctor, but that is not her destiny.

Sultan is 40 years old. He hasn’t studied at school. Recently he bought a car and takes passengers to the city.

  • Favorite food: Kebab
  • An Important event in his life: During the civil war a commander wanted to take the daughter of a poor man by force, but Sultan stood in his way. They beat Sultan with the butt of the gun. Now, he is slightly lame in one leg.

Nawab is a 55 year-old man, and a trader.

  • Vision: He wants a factory in the city, but he doesn’t have enough money. He tries to make deals with rich people.
  • Weakness: He likes money; it is not important how he gains it.

Jamil is a 25 year-old young man who recently graduated from the agriculture faculty at the university in the nearby city.

  • Favorite food: He likes new food that the villagers are not familiar with.
  • Weakness: Sometimes he tries to do work above his ability.