Champion Award OTTAWA 2016
Congratulations to 2016 Award Recipients: Linda Middaugh and Louise Pascale
One of the most moving moments of my life was sitting on the sloping living room floor of a house that seemed about to collapse in Kharabat, Kabul’s old haunt for musicians and performers, with a group of Ustads – master hereditary classical musicians. Playing instruments like the rubab, they made music like I had never heard before or since, music that penetrated your soul, that made you feel the pulse of Afghanistan – and music that had such rhythm.
These same musicians were chased out of Afghanistan, exiled to Pakistan, by the Taliban. Some of their friends didn’t make it. Music was illegal under the Taliban, and Afghanistan’s music went underground, but it was still in danger. The director of the Aga Khan’s Central Asia Music Initiative, who grew up in communist Kabul in the 1970s – a time filled with summer concerts and a rich café culture of which musicians were a central part, if also a time when music events were rather prescripted and people rounded up and required to attend events – Mirwaiss Sidiqi, told me about the disappearance of the sarangi, a short-necked string instrument, and the music it produces, when the last remaining player passed away: “We had a sarangi player. We buried the sarangi and the sarangi player at the same time. He died at the end of the Taliban. It no longer exists in Afghanistan, when the last musician died,” he said.
Sidiqi also told me that one thing Afghanistan desperately needs, is to quote, “rebuild a good listening culture of music”… “Value and education for changing the thinking towards musicians, through media, scholars, intellectuals and so on, is needed,” he said. So music, like so many things in Afghanistan, is in a process of recovery. It’s a delicate process, easily thwarted. It’s not so much about rebuilding the community of musicians, but about rebuilding the audience. And where better to start, than with children? Enter Louise Pascale. Louise came to Afghanistan in the 1960s as a peacecorps volunteer, teaching English to boys. Many of you know Marnie and Dawn in Kabul, or remember when Marnie, executive director of our partner PARSA, who came here to speak at a previous AGM. So a small amusing footnote is that Louise was Marnie’s baby-sitter, and also travelled around Afghanistan with Marnie’s family. Back then, in between teaching keen young Afghans, and baby-sitting bratty American kids, Louise – who had a degree in education and in music – developed an interest in Afghan music. She stayed on in the peace corps, to work on her own project, pulling together what would become the Afghan songbook, gathering traditional songs in the local languages and documenting them so they wouldn’t be lost, and so children would have the gift of music from their culture. Her life is fascinating, and the story of how the songbook was later revived, returning to Afghanistan, this precious musical heritage, which is incidentally also a powerful tool of education, and we proudly include the Songbook in both our physical libraries around Afghanistan and in our digital library, Darakht-e Danesh, but she will better tell you those stories. So I want to finish by saying is to ensure you know that, as she did in the 60s, today Louise does this work as a volunteer. She has given a gift to Afghanistan, and actually, to all of us – to our global musical heritage. She has given kids back their songs, and helped them discover the magic of music, a magic that when we find it young, can serve us all our lives.For this reason, we are taking this opportunity to recognize Louise’s extraordinary contribution to education in Afghanistan, and awarding her our annual Champion for Education in Afghanistan Award. There is a reason the Taliban banned music. They know its power, and its threat to ignorance. Louise knows its power too, and she has harnessed it, as a tool for children’s learning, and in the process, helped revive and preserve a proud part of Afghanistan’s cultural history. We celebrate you Louise.
Linda Middaugh, from the Halton Chapter of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, formerly known as Canadians in Support of Afghan Women, has exemplified with distinction the mission of the organization: Canadians taking action, in partnership with Afghan women, towards improving conditions of
human rights, ending women's oppression, and providing opportunities for Afghan women to live their lives with dignity, certainty and purpose. Linda has worked tirelessly since 1999, as a long-standing member of Canadians in Support of Afghan Women, to both raise awareness about the plight of Afghan girls and women, and also, along with her devoted chapter members, to raise virtually hundreds of thousands of dollars, to empower those women through the organization’s programs. Linda is held in such high esteem in her chapter, described by one of her fellow members as “the glue that holds us together.” As well as leading with distinction in her chapter, Linda extended her great talents and hard work as a Director on the National Board of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, winning the admiration and great respect of her fellow Board members.
In her community she has been a longstanding member and treasurer of the Women of Halton Action group, an advocacy organization for women’s rights. She initiated and has been a longstanding member of the organizing committee of the ‘Dinner Party’, an annual event in the Halton region to mark and celebrate International Women’s Day. Fifty per cent of proceeds from this well-attended, enormously successful, sold-out event, has been donated to Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. Linda has been a force to be reckoned with in raising funds to support girls and women in Afghanistan. She has been no less dedicated in raising awareness. Linda has done virtually countless presentations, over 15 years, in schools, churches, and various community groups. She also takes every opportunity to raise awareness about Afghan girls and women, and women’s rights in general, on social media. Her commitment and passion for Afghanistan have manifested in so many ways. She has worked to support many specific projects in Afghanistan, including the building of a school in Jalalabad. In 2013, she joined a delegation from CW4WAfghan to travel to Afghanistan to visit the various programs, affirming her own commitment to this work and enabling her to bring back her stories and testimonials, inspiring chapter members and the many other audiences she addressed. Linda’s professional background, elementary teacher, allowed her to participate in the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario (ETFO) Status of Women Committee, which strongly advocates for women’s rights. Through that connection, she has been able to win support from ETFO for Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, generously sponsoring many of our events.
Linda is a wife, mother of three and grandmother to nine grandchildren. She takes great pride and joy in her family and they have her unwavering support and love. It’s a pretty good guess that her strong sense of caring and service will carry on through the next generations.