I served in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a US Army soldier. That experience made me acutely aware of the complexity of those conflicts. Context is the most difficult thing to grasp. At once, there is both violence, corruption and all of the challenges innate in an insecure and war-weary area of the world, and there is also courage, virtue, selflessness, and evolving opportunities unavailable in previous years. To ignore this context is to miss some truly amazing progress being made by the people who you will never see on the evening news. Consider, for example, that there have never been more girls attending school in the history of Afghanistan. Today, nearly 20 percent of Afghans enrolled in higher education are women. There are 3,000 women-owned businesses and associations in Afghanistan. Women-founded nonprofit organizations are taking care of many of the needs of their communities. Women are serving in leadership roles at all levels of government. These women are courageously and optimistically moving Afghanistan forward toward better days.
This optimism must be, necessarily, tempered by other realities on the ground. Those who would hold their communities back from moving forward are resorting to violence and discrimination. Societal shifts do not come easy and too often move with generational inertia. Government corruption and difficulties in institutionalizing democratic infrastructure are, unfortunately, challenges that face all developing governments. Facing these challenges while simultaneously fighting domestic and foreign insurgents and terrorists is difficult and painstaking.
Supporting the development of Afghanistan requires what is most difficult for those of us living in relatively peaceful and stable areas in the West — PATIENCE. The alternative, however, is to lose the gains we have made in these areas. Maintaining this balance of thought between the great progress made and the challenges that remain is necessary, however, if we have any hope of peace.
Karadah Project International, an Iowa 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, believes supporting vetted nonprofits is a way to both build local capacity and support those closest to the problems on the ground. The Women’s Education for a Better Tomorrow (WEBT) is a women-founded nonprofit organization working to support widows and other poor women in the Herat area. One of its areas of focus is the Maslakh camp for displaced Afghans. Home to over 150,000 displaced Afghans, Maslakh is the largest such camp in Afghanistan. Established in 1992, Maslakh is a camp of mud huts and tents in the shadow of the Afghan mountains. The camp has limited opportunities, especially for women.
The WEBT organization of dedicated women is training these women in poverty-busting vocational and business skills. This is not remarkable; other organizations have conducted training courses. Taking UNSKILLEDunemployed women and creating SKILLED unemployed women, however, only creates frustration and contributes nothing to solving the problem of poverty. WEBT is not only training these women in marketable skills, but negotiating with local businesses to use the produced products and helping other women to set up their own businesses. This is a proactive approach to post-training and makes a real difference in lifting the women from poverty.
Many of the women targeted for WEBT’s programs are widows, otherwise single mothers, or supporting disabled husbands. What if the choice they have is between learning vocational skills, which could lift them from poverty, and feeding their families today, which keeps them in long-term poverty? This is the problem facing many of the women who might otherwise participate in WEBT’s program. To support the women during training, WEBT successfully applied for and received a grant of over $20,000 to provide food for 100 participants and their families during the 6-month program. The grant requires $2,500 in matching funds. The efforts of WEBT in Herat is making a real difference in the lives of women and is worthy of support.
Karadah Project International is supporting WEBT’s efforts by raising the matching grant. You can help by donating at: