As the coalition I’m working with–Get Afghanistan Right–continues to make the case that the Obama administration would be wise to rethink its plan to escalate militarily in Afghanistan, I’vetried to engage the arguments made by some feminists and human rightsgroups who believe that such an escalation is necessary to protectAfghani women and girls. I share their horror when I read stories likethis one by New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins describing an acid attack against girls and women–students and their teachers–at the Mirwais School for Girls. But how will escalation or increased US troop presence improve their security or make their lives better?
I thought it would be important to speak with someone who has experienceworking on the ground with Afghan women’s organizations. Kavita Ramdasis President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women. For 15 years she has worked with groups like the Afghan Institute for Learning–which serves about 350,000 women and children in their schools, health care centers, and human rights programs.
This is what Kavita said:
We’re hearing from groups we’ve worked with for over a 15 year period now, on the ground inside Afghanistan and with Afghan women’s groups andPakistan as well.
First, I think it’s remarkable that our approach to foreign policy –not just for the last eight years, but with regard to Afghanistan andPakistan in general over the last thirty years–has been almost entirelymilitary focused. There hasn’t been any willingness to take a cold hardlook at how effective or ineffective that strategy has been in whetheror not it has helped stabilize the country. And there has been muchless attention paid to whether this militaristic approach has doneanything positive for the women of Afghanistan. It’s doubtful whetherAmerica’s foreign policy has ever had the welfare of Afghan women atheart. As many Afghani women have said to us, ‘You know, you didn’teven think about us 25 years ago,’ and then all of a sudden post 9-11,we’re sending troops to Afghanistan and ostensibly we’re very concernedabout women. But there’s very little willingness to really look at theimplications of a military strategy on women’s security. It is veryimportant to begin with the following question: If the strategies thatwe used up to this point have not succeeded in ensuring the safety andwell being of women and girls, what makes us think that increasedmilitarization with 30,000 additional US troops is somehow going toimprove the situation and security of women in Afghanistan?