News: Afghan women find support at Wardak Women's Center
Story by Pfc. Chris Baker
WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Recently the Afghan national police worked with 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery, Task Force Spartan, to provide 25 women from Wardak province and their families with humanitarian aid packages.
The ANP distributed the packages, containing food and stuffed animals, at the Wardak Women's Center.
Mahtab Jafari, the Wardak province director of women's affairs, said they are glad to help women in need, but adds their goal is something more.
"The first main goal is to have a safe place for women to go due to any reason," said Jafari. "The second goal is to have an education center to teach women English, computers, or anything they need. But, the overall goal is for the women to be self-sufficient so they can leave the center and provide for themselves or their families."
Army Capt. Tammy Lanning, 4th Bn., 25th FA intelligence officer and Wardak Women's Center liaison, said helping the women of the province is beneficial in several ways, "I think it's very important, while at the same time pretty frustrating. There's a lot of benefit from it. To increase [women's] rights and make them capable will not only help their family, but also decrease the poverty rate in the area."
Lanning says the main challenge lies in changing the way society views women and instilling confidence in women so they aren't afraid to go outside the home to seek help or education.
Coalition forces hope to help the center accomplish this through a variety of ways.
"We're going to talk to [U.S. Agency for International Development] and see if we can fix up the building because it's already in poor shape," said Lanning.
In the short-term, fixing a windmill would be a quick, cheap way to provide power to the center and facilitating the building and use of a women's vocational school for the long-term, Lanning said.
Jafari got the idea for a vocational school from areas already using similar programs.
"In other provinces, there are vocational schools for women," she said.
"Any type of educational classes for women will help, and since other provinces had them already we wanted to get ideas from them."
The Women's Center plans to teach classes, but they also want to show women how to provide for themselves so they don't have to rely on the center.
"The goal is to make women self-sufficient," said Jafari. "We don't plan on using the center as a means to sell items, rather to teach women how to make something they can sell on their own."
According to Jafari, the Wardak Women's Center has had some success, "There has been some progress so far, especially for those in need. The word is getting out that there is a women's society and women are becoming more active in the community."
Lanning said the focus is on helping women in and around Mayden Shar, because the women's center does not have access to other villages or districts which are farther away.
"We hope to be able to assist women in the outer lying districts get help whether it's a local link to the women's center in Mayden Shar or maybe even getting a few centers built in other areas," she added.
Jafari is working to let the women of Wardak know there is a safe place they can get help. She is working with Lanning to get a column in the local paper and eventually a quarterly magazine produced by the women's center.
"Basically it's based on society, on advertising, on promoting women's rights, to let everyone know that the woman is important. That she can work outside of the house and provide for the family," said Jafari.