Paktika officials, PRT discuss women’s education, employment initiatives
by 1st Lt. Emily Chilson CJTF101
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Paktika Provincial Reconstruction Team members discussed the future of female education and employment with the provincial director the Department of Women’s Affairs and female council members April 7.
Pictured: U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Tamora Holland(left), Paktika Provincial Reconstruction Team physician assistant from Pittsburgh, Dr. Bibi Hawa (center), Paktika Department of Women’s Affairs diretor, and Deanna Sahibzai, Paktika women’s affairs council member (right), gather for a female engagement meeting April 7. The Paktika Provincial Reconstruction Team Female Engagement Team regularly meets with Paktika’s DoWA to help improve women’s lives in the province.
“I want to work for the women of Paktika,” Hawa said. “We have to be honest. We cannot bring changes immediately. It needs time to work. So we will bring changes, and we will make a difference in the lives of women.”
Hawa said initially the women of Paktika were unhappy and unwilling to cooperate when she first joined the DoWA in October.
“They didn’t even want to meet with me,” she said. “Slowly, I have met with people, and at least 100 women have expressed interest in tailoring and Quran-learning programs.”
Each FET member brings a different strength to the overall mission of improving women’s affairs in Paktika. As the FET leader, U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Tamora Holland, who calls Pittsburgh home, works alongside Hawa to outline priorities and initiatives for the women of Paktika.
“I work with Dr. Hawa as an adviser,” Holland explained. “We work one-on-one. What we try to do is talk with women to learn what their needs, requests or concerns are, like we did at the women’s day event a couple weeks ago.”
Carol McLaughlin, U.S. Agency for International Development representative, assessed the women’s priorities to identify grants available for potential programs, and then will help with the application process.
During the brainstorming session, she also suggested the Afghan women form an association. While a women’s association may be a good idea, according to Holland, the cultural barriers require time and patience when it comes to starting major programs.
“We need to get the women together first,” said Holland. “They need to come out and actually meet each other and know that there’s more than just one of them.”
Fraiba Nasiri, Ambassador’s Small Grant Program representative, works with women in different provinces of Afghanistan to fund programs for women.
“If there are women who want to do something for themselves, then they are welcome to register themselves as an association or non-government organization,” Nasiri said.
Despite all of the ideas discussed during the meeting, the DoWA said education is her top priority.
“I will try my best to attract the assistance of the department of education and department of economy,” Hawa said. “I have talked with people in Urgun, and there are almost 800 girls and women who want to go to school and study. That’s the big plan.”
Ideally, Hawa said she would like women, ages 18 to 26, to study in school for two years. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done.
“When I talked to the head of the education department here in Paktika, he told me they could not assist me,” the DoWA explained.
According to Holland, challenges like this are the reason the FET and the female leaders of Paktika work together.
“That’s what we’re trying to do over here,” Holland said. “We’re trying to get these women to work with each other. They are able to work separately from coalition forces, and pull on each other for resources as opposed to getting everything from the PRT.
“The DoWA really wants women to be a part of society, a part of the government and a part of the change in Afghanistan,” she explained. “But they can’t do that unless they’re educated.”