Tuesday, October 17, 2006

No Girl Left Behind

About three years ago, the rise in Afghani children’s education (of both sexes) was used as an example of the U.S. victory over the Taliban regime. U.S. officials boasted that, since the Taliban were overthrown in 2001, children’s education was soaring – and they were right. Then.

Now, it’s a different story, especially for Aghani girls. The Taliban insurgency has become even more threatening, and the backlash against U.S. occupation tears apart whole provinces. A recent article in the Washington Post, “Afghan Girls, Back in the Shadows” asserts that “In the southern province of Kandahar, all schools are now closed in five districts. Attackers have thrown hand grenades through school windows and threatened to throw acid on girls who attend school.” The list of tragedies goes on, and too much of that violence is directed at schools, particularly those who educate girls.

And yet, the information about the progress of Afghani girls and women is sparse. When the New Faces, More Voices interns were researching for our lobbying day, many of us reported that we had found little to no research pertaining to Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s Afghan Women Empowerment Act. It’s understandable that it would be difficult to find Afghani research on the subject, but what about the U.S.? Why aren’t these horrible facts being shoved in the faces of complacent policy-makers? Why are we still pretending that the U.S. succeeded in Afghanistan when the insurgent backlash is almost worse than the original Taliban regime?

The answer is, we don’t want to know. It’s better if we pretend that Afghani girls and women are fine, that the literacy rate isn’t in the single digits, that the home schools for girls aren’t being bombed, and that the female teachers aren’t being gunned down by hired thugs. But all that we achieve – as women, people, a nation – by ignoring the Afghanis’ suffering is a false peace of mind and hardened hearts. We need to act.

Now, I’m not trying to say that we should rush into Afghanistan as Western saviors to the “helpless” Afghani women and girls. (That kind of attitude has gotten the U.S. into enough trouble.) The Afghani home schools for girls are proof that these women can help themselves. When it comes down to it, however, their resources are scarce. Afghani teacher Mahmad Agul admits, "We lack everything here -- paved roads, electrical power, deep wells, clinics. But this school was our highest priority."

Hence, the always burning and hard to answer question: What can we do? Well, for one, you can write your representatives in Congress, urging them to co-sponsor the Afghan Women Empowerment Act (SR 2392 in the Senate and HR 5185 in the House). This act will allocate millions of dollars to the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, and, most importantly, to Afghan women-led nonprofit organizations. The Feminist Majority Foundation even has a page where you can send an email to your representative directly.

Other than that, I have to admit, I don’t know. I’d be more than happy to hear suggestions from you all. But I do know that just having the knowledge of the situation, and not ignoring the Afghani women and girls, is a step in the direction of real peace.

1 comment:

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