Onnie Wilson spoke of the Tragedy of Life in Afghanistan
“…to be born a girl in Afghanistan is the most dangerous thing to happen to a girl anywhere…”
In the early 70s, with a background in teaching, Onnie Wilson set out to see the world in a used red Post Office Morris Minor van, heading for Nepal. However, the country that made the biggest impression on her was Afghanistan with its stunning scenery, wide open spaces and towering mountains. It was the start of a life dedicated to helping Afghanis move forward and a realisation, she says, that “there is more to any story than what appears in the newspaper.”
In her view, Afghanistan’s greatest tragedy is that it is land-locked and bordered by three ex-soviet states as well as Iran, Pakistan and China; and affected by the constant attention of the United States, India and Saudi Arabia. Onnie remembers the days when Afghanistan was just a normal developing country but has been saddened by the recent history of violence and destruction and the increasing number of deaths and injury in a population whose neighbours (and Big Powers) vie for control. “It is,” she says, “a country continually at war in which ordinary Afghanis are pawns in a power play.” The USSR, the Cold War, the vicious Northern Alliance, the Taliban, the Twin Towers in September 2001 and the subsequent US/UK invasion and continuing chaos have left the people at the mercy of local war lords – armed and battle-hardened – and foreign armies, including Australia. Afghanistan has been thrown into poverty and cultural and social stagnation; no post office, no centralised water supply and no electricity. It faces insecurity and little progress, where women live in fear and subjugation; to be born a girl in Afghanistan is the most dangerous thing to happen to a girl anywhere: 60% are married by age 16, often to older men, married to pay off a debt. They can be executed for ‘adultery’ having done no more than walk down a street with a boy – or experience rape. Many are widows with no breadwinner, no social security, no education; their only resort is begging. Health and birth problems often lead to opium/heroin addiction and many of the most significant and inspiring women leaders have been assassinated by the Taliban. Onnie Wilson left us with the clear impression that it is an almost hopeless situation; yet Afghani women plead: Don’t forget us.