Security for Women In Afghanistan?

From Katrina Vanden Heuvel at The Nation:

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’ve tried to engage the arguments made by some feminists and human rights groups who believe that such an escalation is necessary to protect Afghani women and girls. I share their horror when I read stories like this 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 experience working on the ground with Afghan women’s organizations. Kavita Ramdas is 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 and Pakistan 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 and Pakistan in general over the last thirty years–has been almost entirely military focused. There hasn’t been any willingness to take a cold hard look at how effective or ineffective that strategy has been in whether or not it has helped stabilize the country. And there has been much less attention paid to whether this militaristic approach has done anything positive for the women of Afghanistan. It’s doubtful whether America’s foreign policy has ever had the welfare of Afghan women at heart. As many Afghani women have said to us, ‘You know, you didn’t even 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 concerned about women. But there’s very little willingness to really look at the implications of a military strategy on women’s security. It is very important to begin with the following question: If the strategies that we used up to this point have not succeeded in ensuring the safety and well being of women and girls, what makes us think that increased militarization with 30,000 additional US troops is somehow going to improve the situation and security of women in Afghanistan?

 The second question is, what has been the role of the existing troops in Afghanistan with regard to the situation and the security of women? In general, what happens when regions become highly militarized, and when there are “peace-keeping forces,” militias, as well as foreign troops–which is NATO and the United States, primarily? In most parts of the world, highly militarized societies in almost every instance lead to bad results for women. The security of women is not improved and in many instances it actually becomes worse.

Read the rest here

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