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    Female Engagement Team visits Afghan students, delivers school supplies

    HERAT PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN

    08.08.2010

    Story by Sgt. Brian Kester 

    NATO Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan

    HERAT, Afghanistan — A school in Herat province recently received a much needed delivery of school supplies for its more than 30 female Afghan students during a Marine Corps Female Engagement Team visit.

    The Marine FET, in a coordinated effort with a U.S. Civil Affairs and Special Forces team from the Zerekoh Valley, delivered more than just backpacks filled with paper, pens, pencils, erasers, and other various supplies to the 34 female students ranging in age from 7 to 14 -- they delivered a ray of hope to the people living in Shindand district.

    “The intent was to drop off school supplies along with teacher’s kits and for us to engage the female students,” said a Marine gunnery sergeant who took part in the event. “This is just a small portion of the mission of the team here, but a very important one. We work with the Civil Affairs team to make sure they are engaging every aspect of the community, and with the help of the FET, they are able to do just that.”

    During the team’s visit, they also handed out teacher’s kits containing chalk, paper, pens and pencils. School officials said the provisions they received were the first supplies the school received this year.

    “Being able to provide teachers and students with the necessary materials they need is important,” said Tech. Sgt. Michael O’Connor, a Coalition forces spokesman. “Especially in Afghanistan where the literacy rate for males and females age 15 and older is less than 30 percent.”

    In addition to Afghanistan’s low literacy rate, roughly 43 percent for males and 12 percent for females, the culture also requires sexes to be segregated throughout the country, to include the school in Zerekoh Valley. Even though the school’s staff now allows girls to attend the school, they still require them to attend at different times.

    This same rule of thumb applies to the way men and women socialize with one another.

    Tradition forbids men not related to a woman to see and or talk to her. In an effort to reach out talk to the Afghan people, both male and female, to ask them questions, and to learn about their lives, FETs have been employed to various parts of Afghanistan’s western provinces.

    When given an opportunity to address the female Marines, several of the girls related stories of how prior to the Americans arriving in the area they were not permitted to attend school.

    “We are so thankful to the (Coalition forces) for providing security that has allowed us to attend school,” the girls said during the visit.

    Prior to the Coalition forces and Afghan Local Police working together to bring stability to Zerekoh Valley, girls were unable to attend school in the area, a Coalition official said. In May, the situation in the valley settled into a more stable environment.

    The fact that there is a school open to girls in Zerekoh Valley holds significance to the community that cannot be measured, said a Marine gunnery sergeant, the senior member of the FET.

    “Our interpreter was very moved by the fact that there were young girls able to attend school in the valley,” she added.

    Unable to hide her enthusiasm, the female interpreter who is from Herat, expressed her excitement when she saw the girls.

    “Girls attending school in the Zerekoh Valley, this is something I have never seen before,” said the interpreter. She went on to explain the importance of an education and encouraged the girl students to attend school regularly.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 08.08.2010
    Date Posted: 08.08.2010 01:17
    Story ID: 54131
    Location: HERAT PROVINCE, AF 

    Web Views: 498
    Downloads: 170

    PUBLIC DOMAIN