When Alia* was a girl in Kapisa, Afghanistan, she was forbidden from attending school under Taliban rule. Now a young woman, she has overcome gender barriers to report current affairs and politics for the nation’s leading television station, Tolo TV.

In January, Alia was selected from more than 100 applicants to become one of 15 reporters accepted to Internews’ Young Journalist Internship Program. The program equips aspiring journalists—a third of them women—to become leaders in their field, providing three-month paid internships at top media outlets.

Counterpart’s Afghan Civic Engagement Program (ACEP) has partnered with Internews since 2013 to strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s media. Through training emerging journalists, including women, the program supports the fundamental goals of civic participation and advances the inclusion of all voices through a free and independent media.

“Afghan women face hurdles when working outside the home, but this is changing and media is playing a critical role,” says Alia. “By focusing more on women-related issues, the media can help change the conservative traditions that limit women’s lives.”

Alia hopes to leverage her internship at Tolo TV to become one of the first successful female journalists in Afghanistan, serving as a role model for other women. As a journalist, she hopes not just to help build a more inclusive media, but to help build better lives for her people.

“It is my dream to help the Afghan people, and women in particular,” says Alia. “Through work in the media, I can give voice to my people, to women, who have been victims of violence for decades. This motivates me every morning to go to work. People make fun of me for being a woman journalist, but I’ll continue to work toward my dream.”

The internship is the first of its kind in the country. Beginning in Kabul, plans have been made for a second round of internships that will extend to Balkh, Herat and Nangarh provinces.

“This internship helps young journalists supplement their education and introduces them to local community issues,” said Ramin Nouroozi, Counterpart Afghanistan Deputy Chief of Party for Programs. “As a result, they may become active agents of change: more aware, more engaged, more critical of and attentive to their public servants’ performance. In short, this internship helps journalists and citizens alike become well-informed, critically alert and ready to contribute to and promote democratic values.”

Through ACEP, Counterpart and Internews are collaborating to bring Afghan media and civil society organizations together and to create opportunities for media to understand its role in advancing a free and democratic society. To date, ACEP has awarded $2.8 million in grant funding to 29 media organizations and civil society organizations, helping to develop an unbiased, inclusive media.

*Note: Names have been changed to protect individual confidentiality.

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