Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Women in Afghanistan

So I was out at one of the more remote FOBs last week and we were able to do a mission into the District Center to meet with some women to talk about the local women's council and how to address their needs.  The district women's representative invited 5 or 6 women from the council to attend the meeting to meet with me to talk about how we could work together to get some programs or initiatives going out in the district of Deh Rawud.

First of all, driving around Afghanistan, I'm always completely enthralled with watching out the window as we go through villages.  You rarely see women.  They just aren't out and about....and if they are, it's ALWAYS with a male relative.  You see lots and lots of men and children.  Everywhere.  Men and children.  Sometimes the children will run towards the convoy and wave.  Sometimes they will hold their hands out (I'm assuming hoping the gunner will throw them candy or something?).  While we were driving last week, I saw my first kid giving us the thumbs down.  I did a total double take....it was a line of kids on the edge of this short wall and there was one little kid, couldn't have been more than 4, looking at the convoy with a scowl on his face, giving us the thumbs down.  What the?  Occassionally the kids will even throw rocks at the vehicles.  I always wonder what experience they've had with the coalition to make them feel the way they do....or what have they been told about us to either like us or hate us so much?  As we pass by the men squatting in front of their storefronts or sitting along a wall, I wonder if they'll be happy to see us go....or are afraid of what is going to happen when we do....or do they just not care one way or the other?

Man sitting outside his shop
Anyway....back to the women.  So we sit down with these women (and their 4 or 5 small children) and I thank them for meeting with me and tell them I want to talk to them about what their greatest needs are....do they need schools for girls, healthcare for women, education on equal rights?   The women immediately start chattering at me in Pashto and when the interpreter finally is able to tell me what they're saying, he says they say they are hungry and they need food.  Ummm....what?  That caught me completely off guard.  Something I guess I never really considered.  So I told them I would work with their government in Tarin Kowt and see if there are programs or if there is funding available to take care of their immediate necessities, food, water, shelter, clothing.  They were like, "We don't need shelter or clothing, we need food.  Our families are going to bed hungry every night."  Wow.  I didn't ask, but I assume most of the women were widows (after 30 years of war, there are a lot of widows here) and are unable to work outside the home to provide for their families.  It's just something that didn't occur to me.....so it's understandable why they don't care about schools or healthcare or human rights when they're not getting enough to eat.  Not to mention that it had to have been about 40 degrees out and all the women and most of the children were barefoot.  It just struck home to me how lucky I am to have everything I do.  I commented in the truck on the way back that I'm GLAD I wasn't born a woman in Afghanistan, GEESH....to which the gunner replied, "I'm glad I wasn't born a MAN in Afghanistan."  Touche.

There are too many reasons to count that I'm glad to be an American woman.....

3 comments:

  1. It's pretty sad isn't it? Will you make arrangements for them to get food for their children? What kind of a program would do that? I am glad I am an American too.

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  2. You raise good questions...I think I would ponder those as well. "What have those children been told about us that makes them give us the thumbs down?" "Does the shop keeper even care that we are there?" But your points about the women really hit me the hardest as I sit here and look around me. We ARE so lucky! Thanks for keeping things in perspective for me! I miss ya bunches and I can't wait to drink those miller lites on the dock with you and catch up! I can only imagine the conversations we will have! You know I will have LOTS of questions! Love ya Buddy!

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  3. I happened reading your blogs after I tried to search for best town to ship 3 sets of toddler size clothes and infant thick coat covering from toe to head. I tried to decide which town able reaching very cold remote site whom really needs that badly either Kabul or your location. I have address to send but hard to determine which town needs it now? Ur feedback will be appreciated! Anyway I do hope the food situation u have been telling on blog to get immediate attention as they suffering so long enough! Thank u!

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