Regardless of your feelings about the war in Afghanistan, (and believe me, I'm the first to admit to a deep-seated ambivalence especially after reading something like this soldier's story about what it's like on the ground there), the women of Afghanistan continue to suffer, and face dire, life-threatening circumstances should the Taliban re-gain power, or the current government continue to slash women's rights.
This week, I'd like to offer to you small ways that you can help.
This is what self-immolation looks like in the aftermath, by the way. Can you imagine being so desperate about your circumstances that you consider your only way out to be to set yourself on fire? Think about that for a moment. Death by fire is preferable to the life you live under the Taliban.
Of course, under the most extreme forms of Sharia, the appropriate punishment for a woman who commits adultery is this:
(a woman who has been stoned to death)
Before someone interrupts me and says, "But aren't you imposing your western imperialist views upon another culture," let me say this.
Many of the organizations that I list are run by Afghan women who will be damned if things are going to go back to the way they were before.
As it is, the situation for Afghan women is deteriorating. (My last blog talked about those situations, including school girls being burned with acid for attending school, and the numerous assassinations of women's rights leaders in Afghanistan.)
The Ayenda Foundation is dedicated to educating Afghan children. From its web site:
Returning to Afghanistan six years ago, after 25 years of exile, I found my country completely destroyed. Not only was there a complete devastation of its infrastructure, but along with it had gone the heart and souls of its people. Poverty was abundant and so were children – on the streets, running between cars, polishing shoes, selling water and begging for money. In schools children were sitting on bare, cold, dusty floors writing with broken pencils on paper that had been used and reused numerous times already. At present there is a tremendous need for improvements in both the facilities and materials needed for education as well as increased overall awareness of the impoverished state of education in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is home to an almost inconceivable number of orphans, the current estimates are in the hundreds of thousands and one million children suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Afghanistan is afflicted by one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world (135 per 1,000 live births in 2006) and malnutrition remains prevalent. A large number of Afghan children, in particular girls, still do not have access to education and are fated to be illiterate.
The Ayenda Foundation was founded in 2006 in partnership with the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council to support and protect Afghanistan’s most valuable and vulnerable natural resource: its children. The Ayenda Foundation will contribute to Afghanistan’s rebuilding effort and help our children gain the confidence and the skills necessary to begin writing a new chapter of Afghan history, one defined by peace and prosperity.
CharityHelp International is working with the latest technology to connect Afghan women with their international counterparts:
These smart phones can connect women from developed countries with women in developing countries who are engaged in varied activities including education and building livelihoods through small business.
With the availability of these new mobile communication and banking services, doctors, entrepreneurs, and humanitarian workers can now communicate, pay suppliers and receive payments all with their mobile phone. This will increase productivity dramatically and allow their work to expand geographically since they can more easily make payments to and receive payments from their donors, investors, suppliers, subcontractors and/or employees.
Stephanie K. Dalpra, Managing Director of CHI, also sent me these suggestions:
You may also be interested in the recent huffington post article about CHI and our work: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-luce/charityhelp-an-electronic_b_218210.html
I am going to give a number of options for folks-not necessarily in any order.
1. AFCECO Wishlist for items on amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/registry.html?ie=UTF8&type=wishlist&id=2KOEP096D3HZB
2. Sponsor a child www.charityhelp.org/afceco
3. Networking and Support Program: http://www.charityhelp.org/content/view/148/196 This is really exciting. It is an opportunity to build direct relationships between women while building peace and free societies.
4. There are many ways to donate or connect on our website: our video can be seen here: www.charityhelp.org/ladder
http://www.charityhelp.org/content/view/149/193 from here you get get to other donate options.
(Links above are live: just click on them.)
V-Day, the organization founded by Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, continues to do work in Afghanistan. I was assured by my contact at V-Day that checks sent to the organization and designated "for Afghan women" will go to the projects currently underway in Afghanistan. (As you probably already know, V-Day focuses its attention on the situation of women in one particular area each year. This past year, its focus was on The Democratic Republic of the Congo, which I blogged about this spring while preparing a teach-in at my university.
Finally, depending on your views of whether the U.S. should be involved in Afghanistan at all, you might want to look at this women's organization:
So, I've tried to do more here than simply point and ask you to look. I'm pointing and telling you that you don't have to sit there in front of your monitor feeling sad, helpless, and angry. Even a small contribution can help. Even writing a letter can help. Don't have any money? Write to your Congressional Representative or Senator and tell him or her that while war is raging in Afghanistan, we have a responsibility to the women of that country to not throw them under the bus in exchange for peace.
So, ready ... set ... go.