Our new Kroc Institute report, Afghan Women Speak, has sparked considerable interest. You can view it here.
During the recent release event at the UN Church Center in New York, the discussion focused on how to end the war in a responsible manner that protects the precarious progress women have made since 2001. The deteriorating security situation has jeopardized women’s gains. As Nicholas Kristof wrote recently in the New York Times, “Let’s not fool ourselves that we are doing favors for Afghan women by pursuing an unsustainable war.” Let’s increase the amount of economic aide and reduce the portion of bombs and bullets.
I recently discussed these issues and the findings of our report with leaders of the National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority and Women’s Action for New Directions in Washington, DC. Here are some of the takeaways from that conversation:
- The more we empower women and fund women’ organizations on the ground in Afghanistan, the more we help to create democracy and peace.
- U.S. aid should go directly to Afghan women, not to contractor organizations that are run by men. USAID has earmarked hundreds of millions for Afghan women, but most of it is channeled through major corporations and organizations and never leaves U.S. shores. Very little trickles down to the women on the ground who really need the help.
- The U.S. should work primarily and directly with indigenous secular nonprofit groups that are created and run by women. If you want to help the women, give the money to them, not to men.
- More important than withdrawing U.S. military forces is withdrawing unaccountable U.S. contractors, almost all men, who pay themselves fat salaries and skim off resources for their own operations.
- Women need to be fully represented in the peace and reconciliation process and must have a seat at the table during negotiations for Afghanistan’s political future.