EXCLUSIVE: ABC7 News Anchor Cheryl Jennings speaks with working Afghan women

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ByCheryl Jennings KGO logo
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
ABC7's Cheryl Jennings interviews working women in Afghanistan in 2015
ABC7 News Anchor Cheryl Jennings had the opportunity to travel to Afghanistan with the San Rafael-based nonprofit Roots of Peace and met women risking their lives to work.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- ABC7 News Anchor Cheryl Jennings on her trip to Afghanistan talked with young women who work with Roots of Peace in Kabul, to help Afghan families improve their lives. It's dangerous, but it's a passion for them, and it's very much appreciated by their new president Ashraf Ghani, Ph.D.

The newly-elected president of Afghanistan said in an exclusive interview with Jennings that opportunity begins with a love for the land.

"This is a place where people deeply believe in education, learning and engaging. They need to get an opportunity," Ghani said. "The majority are engaged with agriculture. That's where we need to focus, to change the life of the majority."

President Ghani is impressed with the agricultural programs by Heidi and Gary Kuhn. Their funding comes from USAID, the United States Agency for International Development.

Their Bay Area nonprofit, Roots of Peace, is helping farmers improve their crops to sell internationally and teach women to become farmers.

PHOTOS: Cheryl Jennings' mission to Afghanistan with Roots of Peace

They work in a building surrounded by security guards armed with machine guns. When Heidi Kuhn visits, she wears body armor because she's a target for radicals who don't like westerners or women working outside the home.

"We take our business very seriously. I look into the eyes of my own children and think how fortunate they are to grow up in California, to live truly in peace," Heidi Kuhn said.

Some of the women came to the heavily guarded hotel where we were staying. They affectionately call Kuhn, Heidi Mama. They told me they take a risk daily, just going to and from work because of attacks by the Taliban.

"Whenever I come to office every day, especially it's really hard for me to say bye to my kids, because I can't believe that at the end of the day I will be able to go home alive," Rabia, a worker with Roots of Peace, said. "Every day I say to my husband, 'Goodbye if I can't see you, then I will see you in heaven.'"

VIDEO: ABC7 News Anchor Cheryl Jennings interviews Afghanistan president

They work mostly with widows. There are an estimated one million in Afghanistan. Many can't read, have no job skills and have up to four children to support.

The grape trellising project is tough for women, but has the potential for a higher profit, so they power through it to grow high quality grapes.

"As the man can install the trellis post, the woman can install the trellis post," Sapna, another worker with Roots of Peace said. "They will do this and the quality will be good and they will sell it in the market for a good price, so it's good for them."

President Ghani says what Afghans want is very simple.

"More than anything, we have the human resources that want to live ordinary lives," Ghani said.

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Cheryl Jennings interview with NATO general in Afghanistan

It will take some time for Afghans to be able to lead ordinary lives. Until then, these courageous women will keep working with Roots of Peace, because they're inspired by Heidi Kuhn and know they are helping their country.

"Heidi Mama, she is so brave and so strong," Sapna said. "That's why her staff is so brave and strong. We learn from her."

You can follow Cheryl on Facebook and Twitter for updates on her stories.

Cheryl will have more stories from her Afghanistan trip to share later this week.