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Afghan Women Show Progress By Taking On Community Issues

By Army 1st Lt. Lory A. Stevens
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Aug. 14, 2008 – More than 100 local women who attended the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team Woman’s Shura in the province’s Anaba district Aug. 4 participated in discussions on the welfare of their villages and addressed ongoing issues.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
A group of Afghan women and Air Force Capt. Jillian Torango, of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team, participate in a women’s shura, or community meeting, in Sangee sillage in the province’s Anaba district, Aug. 4, 2008. About 100 women attended and discussed their issues with the Panjshir PRT women’s affairs team. Courtesy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Air Force Capt. Jillian Torango, of the Panjshir PRT, and Miriam Panjshiri, director of women’s affairs, represented their organizations at the shura, or community gathering.

Shuras are important for the PRT as well as local government representatives, because they ensure local voices are heard by both groups, Torango said. She explained that the Panjshir PRT tries to conduct women’s shuras once a month to ensure the voices of Afghan women are heard and their concerns are addressed. Essentially, shuras serve as a platform to allow Afghan women freedom of speech.

“Every time I meet with the women of Panjshir, I leave with two very distinct feelings,” Torango said. “First, I appreciate the freedoms I have as an American. Second, it makes me feel very positive about the way women feel empowered to help with their families and communities.”

Panjshir is a highly conservative region, Torango explained, where women typically interact within the same small groups. The interaction at the Panjshir PRT Woman’s Shura testifies to a good relationship between the women of Panjshir, the director of women’s affairs and the PRT, she said.

Air Force medical technician Tech. Sgt. Dawn Tiemann attended the shura with Torango to answer medical questions and make the Afghan women feel more at ease. Feeling comfortable is essential to promoting a free flow of ideas, Torango said.

“These women all have great ideas about what can be done to make their villages better,” Torango explained. “For instance, they talk about the need for power, drinking water and schools.”

With many widows and large families in Panjshir, humanitarian assistance and vocational training are very important.

“The women talk about wanting to learn skills that will help generate money for their families and villages,” Torango said. “Women want to work, and little by little, they’re being able to.”

The work of the director of women’s affairs and the PRT is supported by the Afghan government, said Torango, who explained that the Afghanistan’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs, located in the Afghan capital of Kabul, is the lead agency promoting advancement for women in Afghanistan. The ministry’s mission is to ensure women have legal, economic, social, political, and civil rights, including the right to be free from all forms of violence and discrimination, Torango said.

(Army 1st Lt. Lory A. Stevens serves in the Task Force Warrior Public Affairs Office.)

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