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U.S. Army Soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, play an impromptu game of volleyball against a team (click for more)
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U.S. Army Capt. Nicole Zupka of Fair Lawn, N.J., a battlewatch captain with Combined Joint Task Force-Paladin, helps an Afghan child with her writing skills during female engagement team training (click for more)
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Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team II members, U.S. Army Spc. Justin Allen (left), a London, Ky., native, and U.S. Army Sgt. Nicholas Combs, a Corbin, Ky., native, get to know a (click for more)
PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - In a small classroom in the Director of Women’s Affairs office, more than 20 women gathered, mostly teachers, for a two-day communications workshop held in Bazarak District here, beginning Feb. 8.
Shoes were placed outside the door of the classroom, and inside, the room lit up with not only the morning sun pouring through the large-paned windows, but of excited chatter and giggling from the women inside.
Mahtab Farid, a native of Santa Monica, Calif., and public diplomacy officer for the U.S. State Department, was full of energy as she began the training. Farid, who normally works out of Bagram Airfield, came to Panjshir, as she does with many provinces the Regional Command – East supports, to build capacity for Afghan women.
Farid knows the Afghan culture well. She not only has worked in Afghanistan for nearly a year now, but she was also born in nearby Iran.
“Iran and Afghanistan are neighbors, and they share religious and social cultures,” she said. “Also, in Iran we speak Farsi which is very similar to Dari, just a different accent.”
Farid began the class with a lesson on introductions. Farid, who is fluent in Farsi, introduced herself, and the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team and Task Force Red Bulls public affairs servicemembers who assisted in the workshop. To learn more about the attendees, Farid had the women pair up and introduce each other to the rest of the group, an exercise requiring them to use their interviewing and public speaking skills.
“The conversation exercise really helped us out,” said Naziya Rizai, the principle for Sangona High School in Panjshir, through an interpreter. “The best activities are those that have practical application.”
“This session was rough on them. It is hard for them to speak in public,” Farid said. “It is important for them to learn good public speaking skills, so that when they need to present themselves in front of important people, they can do well and get the jobs, or grants, or accepted into schools.”
Other classes for the workshop included photography and writing skills. By day two of the workshop, the women completed their first assignment: a written proposal on a goal they are working for in their life, whether that was a job request, school attendance, or grant proposals.
“This was a learning opportunity,” explained Rizai. “I could use the skills taught to write and speak … the class resolved some of the written issues the women had.”
Farid said she was very proud of the women for working so hard on the assignments.
“Communication in Afghanistan in general is very ineffective due to the wars, the lack of transparency and censorship,” said Farid. “When it comes to women affairs, it is much worse because women are not allowed to express themselves freely.”
Teaching courses like this two-day seminar is a passion of hers, Farid said. She explained that she loves to visit the communities and help these women in any way she can to give back to Afghanistan and to truly make a difference in their lives.
“My hope is that we can build capacity and provide these women with educational tools,” said Farid. “They can use these tools and make something of themselves with what they’ve learned.”
After lunch the second day of the workshop, the women were presented certificates of training. To show community support for the class, Panjshir Deputy Gov. Abdul Rahman Kabiri gave a small speech and thanked Farid and the others for teaching the course. He said he appreciated the respect displayed for their culture by ensuring that the class was for women, by women.
After the men left, the women swirled around the room, sharing laughs and taking pictures before they had to leave.
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