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American, Afghan Women Discuss Future

By Staff Sgt. Julie Weckerlein, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MEHTAR LAM, Afghanistan, Sept. 12, 2007 – Several influential Afghan women from Laghman province met earlier this month with U.S. Army and Air Force women to discuss their role in the future of their province.

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U.S. Air Force Capt. Heather Kekic, background, looks on as Air Force Capt. Christa Lothes points out a phrase in a translation book to Afghan women during a meeting on Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, Sept. 5, 2007. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Julie Weckerlein

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“(Afghan women) talk to each other, to their children and their husbands, and that is a very powerful way to get information spread throughout the province,” said Air Force Capt. Heather Kekic, Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team public affairs and information officer.

The Afghan women work for the Laghman provincial governor either as program directors or teachers. Sept. 5 marked the second time they met with the American women, and they talked with the aid of an interpreter. This meeting provided a chance for the Americans to educate the Afghan women about the various humanitarian and security programs available to them and their communities, she said.

The Afghan women always look forward to meeting with their American sisters, said Sharin Taj, Laghman province’s director of women’s affairs.

“We get attached to the women here,” Taj said through an interpreter. “We get together and get to know each other, and that friendship is very important.”

So are the discussions. Among topics discussed were future reconstruction and humanitarian aid projects, the possibility of women’s meetings in local villages, and personal safety and security.

“They are very concerned about the security within the province,” Kekic said. “They are just like us in that they want their roads to be free of bombs. They do not want their families hurt or killed by the violence.”

A few women said they have received threats because of their jobs for the governor. One woman reported that her son had seen strange men with rockets walk along the river bank, while another woman spoke of her fear every day to walk along roads in her village.

The Americans shared phone numbers for the provincial coordination center (similar to 911 service in the United States) and provided information about quick response teams. They also implored the Afghan women to call if they or family members see anything suspicious.

“We have suffered a lot, but we all want the same things,” Taj said. “We want freedom, just like the rest of the people in Afghanistan, and we want education, good families and good jobs. All of these things are very important.”

She added that sacrifices made by the American women are not lost on any of the Afghan women.

“You can ask any female in the village,” Taj said. “We know that (the Americans) have left their families, their children and husbands to come here and help the people of Afghanistan. This is a very honorable thing, and we really appreciate that.”

(Air Force Staff Sgt. Julie Weckerlein is assigned to U.S. Central Command Air Forces Public Affairs.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageU.S. Air Force Capt. Christa Lothes, of the Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team, left, hands donated materials for a sewing class to an Afghan woman during a Sept. 5, 2007, meeting on Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Julie Weckerlein  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDuring a Sept. 5, 2007, meeting with female U.S. servicemembers on Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, Afghan women learned about humanitarian and security programs in place for them and their communities. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Julie Weckerlein  
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