Thursday, December 31, 2009

Nuristan PRT reaches out to local women

By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins
Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs

NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team visited the women of the Nengarach village in eastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan province, to talk about education in the area and the possibility of starting a female literacy program to help promote female equality within the region, Dec. 28. 

The Nuristan PRT gathered a group of females together to conduct a shura with the women of a village elder’s household and asked them questions regarding their education and what type of education they would like to receive if a literacy program was to be started.

“One of the local villages actually came to the Nuristan PRT to request a female literacy program,” U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Stacey Gross, Nuristan PRT information officer from Lakeville, Minn. said. “A group of local non-government organizations became the point of contact and started working on it. The United States Agency for International Development got involved, and then we started working with the NGO’s to actually start the program in Laghman and Nuristan.”

The overall literacy rate is unknown, but is believed to be fairly low in the province for both males and females. It is especially hard for the females to learn because of the expectations they have to uphold, such as cleaning, and caring for their family.

The women say they are doing their best to try to find time to learn new things, such as a new language and basic arithmetic. They hold learning sessions within the household for themselves and the women in the village.

The number one thing the women declared they wanted to learn was how to sew.

Another issue that was brought up in the shura was the health of the women.
The village has a clinic, a pharmacist, a dentist and two midwives, but the females cannot be seen by the pharmacist or the dentist, because both are males.

For any sickness, the local women are seen by one of the midwives. If neither of the midwives is available, or there is a sickness beyond the midwife’s practice, the women travel to Laghman or Nangarhar province to be seen by a female doctor.

In order for the U.S. servicemembers of the Nuristan PRT to promote literacy for the women in the Nengarach area, they have agreed to help provide sewing machines and have the women hold afternoon classes among themselves in order to learn to sew, and learn basic school subjects and possibly new languages.

“I hope the outcome of this shura will be to bring literacy throughout the Nuristan and Laghman provinces,” Gross said. “Hopefully it can be the starting point that will branch out to the other villages so they can see the benefits of what we’re trying to do, and they would want a female literacy program started in their village.”

NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Stacey Gross, Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team information officer from Lakeville, Minn., left, and U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kathleen Leach, Nuristan PRT operations specialist from Smithville, R.I., wait to be introduced to the women of Nengarach village in eastern Afghanistan's Nuristan province, Dec. 28. The women of Nuristan PRT, along with United States Agency for International Development, conducted a women's shura to discuss various avenues in developing a literacy program for the women in the local area and promote female equality throughout the region. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins)

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