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    Operation Sewing up Afghanistan completes first stitch

    KONAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN

    04.05.2011

    Story by Sgt. Katryn McCalment 

    NATO Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan

    KONAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The noise of 14 sewing machines hum in the small classroom. Behind the machines, 14 women concentrate on their garments, as their instructor walks among them, giving instructions as she looks closely at each individuals work.

    In Tanar village, a small town surrounded by lush green mountains near the Pakistani border, on April 3 the 14 women became graduates of the first-ever organized sewing class in the quiet district of Khas Konar, begun last month.

    “We spent weeks talking to the women and assessing what skills would be most valuable to them,” said the Cultural Support Team leader from Special Operations Task Force – East. “Sewing was a class that the women agreed upon unanimously as something they could use to help their families.”

    The CST is a two-woman support team meant to bridge the gap between security operations, conducted by U.S. Special Forces and their Afghan partner forces, within the villages and the women living in them.

    With cultural restrictions on male Soldiers to not engage village women directly, the CSTs are working to return some attention to the women that are often unheard, said the team leader.

    “The [CSTs] are the first time we’ve been able to say what we want,” said Marie [names of the Afghan women have been changed for their safety], a sewing student, who also volunteered her house for the class to be taught at. “A lot of these women just want to help support their families, and sewing is a way for them to do it.”

    “I am a widow and sewing is the only way I can make money,” said one of the older women in the class, who before depended on the kindness of others for survival. Another student is making clothes for her younger siblings, easing the burden on her family.

    During the 10-day class, each woman was taught basic sewing skills including hand stitching and how to use a hand-cranked sewing machine.

    “The women were able to complete 8-10 garments during the class,” said Ms. Wasir, the seamstress instructor, as women held up completed dresses and tops in bright pink and purple fabrics.

    During the graduation, each of the 14 students received a certificate of completion and was able to take home the sewing equipment they used during the course.

    “The students will be able to keep the sewing machine, extra fabric, thread, buttons, an iron and other things they need to continue making clothes with the skills they’ve learned,” said the CST.

    As the word about the class travels, dozens of women inquire about future classes, said the team leader, and paperwork for further funding has already been submitted.

    “As we are able to buy more machines and fabric, we will help organize more classes,” she said. “The response to the first class is overwhelming; the second can’t happen soon enough for the women that weren’t able to be in the initial [class].”

    “Every woman in this village, in this district, should know how to sew,” said a graduate, proudly holding her certificate and equipment. “It’s a skill all women need to have to help their families and do their part in the community.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 04.05.2011
    Date Posted: 04.08.2011 12:24
    Story ID: 68451
    Location: KONAR PROVINCE, AF

    Web Views: 141
    Downloads: 1

    PUBLIC DOMAIN