Monday, April 09, 2012

Afghan Women: Education and Entrepreneurship

Afghan Women: Education and Entrepreneurship


The gnawing fear is that even if the Taliban do not regain control in Kabul, fundamentalist values and laws will gain ground because oppression is rooted not only in the Taliban but also in the culture. While women in Kabul benefit from new freedoms, that is not true of an Afghan woman in a village in the South. For such women there, life before 2001 was oppressive — and so is life today.

The best way to end oppression isn’t firepower but rather education and economic empowerment, for men and women alike, in ways that don’t create a backlash. As Nicholas D. Kristof wrote in one of his former columns, schooling is possible even in Taliban-controlled areas, as long as implementation is undertaken in close consultation with elders and doesn’t involve Westerners on the ground:

The conventional wisdom is that education and development are impossible in insecure parts of Afghanistan that the Taliban control. That view is wrong. Greg Mortenson – you can read about his outstandig “Three Cups of Tea”-project in a recent fairplanet-report – explains why:

“Aid can be done anywhere, including where Taliban are,” Mr. Mortenson said. “But it’s imperative the elders are consulted, and that the development staff is all local, with no foreigners.”

Source: Dr. Greg and Afghanistan by Nicholas D. Kristof (New York Times)

Often the best place to hold girls’ literacy classes is in the mosque. And the insistence of Western donors that they get credit with signs on projects they finance is counterproductive. Buildings might as well have signs reading “burn me down.”

Soora Stoda, one of the entrepreneurs Kristof met, is building a potato chip factory. Another, Shahla Akbari, makes shoes. And Fatima Akbari (the mother of Shahla) is now expanding her women’s businesses and literacy classes in Taliban-controlled areas, always working closely with mullahs and elders to gain their support and protection. “When you go and win their hearts, you can do anything,” she said.

Kristof further wrote: “The road to emancipate Afghan women will be arduous, but it runs through schools and economic development — and, yes, a peace deal with the Taliban, if that’s possible.”

Read more: What about Afghan Women? by Nicholas D. Kristof (New York Times)



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