Tabasum Sharqi (left) opens a book she received for graduating at the top of her Fatima Girls High School class at a ceremony held at the Kunar Department of Women’s (click for more)
Soldiers from the Polish Army and the Texas National Guard Agribusiness Development Team-IV check their shot grouping during qualification on the Polish AK-74 5.56 mm Mini-Beryl short assault rifle Feb. (click for more)
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)
Dr. Mehirulla Muslim, the Nurgaram District subgovernor, addresses an audience of teachers, government officials and citizens during a ceremony to celebrate a completed solar panel electricity project Feb. 21 in (click for more)
U.S. Army Spc. Raheem Stewart, an automations specialist with TF Phoenix, steps along the rafters of the building his team helped wire for communications. Stewart, from Dallas, was one of (click for more)
An Afghan National Army soldier from Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 201st Infantry Regiment, searches a pile of rocks in the courtyard of a high-value target home outside the village of (click for more)
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)
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Army soldiers move through Kharwar District to prevent the Taliban’s freedom of movement Feb. 12. U.S. and Afghan soldiers braved more than 3 feet (click for more)
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)
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – One after the other, women flowed into the shura hall at the Kunar Ministry of Culture and Information, their henna-dyed feet scurrying beneath shapeless blue shrouds; a sea of burqas arrayed in silent contrast to the celebration of women’s rights they had come to attend.
Despite Kunar’s fiercely traditional Pashtun cultural landscape, more than 100 women gathered alongside female representatives from the Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team and the Iowa National Guard’s 734th Agribusiness Development Team as Afghanistan joined 79 other countries across the world in holding events supporting the centennial of International Women’s Day March 8.
However, the celebration was bittersweet for the women of Kunar who, despite progress, still face many challenges.
“Today is a special day for women,” said Nasima Sadat, Kunar director of women’s affairs, in an interview after the event. “To tell you the truth, it is a good day but it is also a day for concern. It is a good day because so many women were able to gather here and celebrate International Women’s Day. I’m concerned because we still haven’t gotten to the point where we have the rights that our religion has given to women and, as a result, we can’t work outside our homes in our own society without fear.
“I think we need a lot of time to improve,” Sadat continued. “Our females lack education – they can’t tell what’s good or bad for them – they always follow the rules laid down by men.”
“Knowledge is like oxygen for a society,” said Mohammad Shoaib, Kunar chief prosecutor, during his remarks at the gathering. “Allah created men and women equally and, in Afghanistan, men and women live equally under the law. It is our responsibility to educate the people on the law so that our Afghan sisters can enjoy the rights promised to them.”
In what is largely viewed as an act of courage, the women of Kunar have been laboring beneath their burqas and behind closed doors to carve out progress from the bedrock of Pashtunwali which supports the current status quo. There were, in fact, many achievements to celebrate in Kunar Province this International Women’s Day.
“There are three women serving as members of the Provincial Development Council, representing the needs of the people regardless of gender, age or tribe,” said U.S. Army Spc. Shannon Drinken of Barron, Wis., Kunar PRT civil affairs specialist and female engagement team member. “Women are attending school in record numbers; more than 50 young women graduated from Fatima High School this past December with many electing to continue their education... Women in Kunar serve as doctors, nurses, teachers and government officials. Each day progress is being made.”
“It’s a beginning,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Melissa S. Brumley of Stuart, Iowa, 734th ADT human resources noncommissioned officer in charge and FET member.
Each government official who spoke emphasized the importance of education, she said. “It’s a step forward for the women of Afghanistan,” Brumley added.
“Today is a day for restoring hope,” Drinken said. “(A day) to make sure that children no longer have to accept that some dreams are out of reach... (a day) for a brighter future for all Afghanistan.”
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