By: Charlie Salmans `13
Some may think Afghanistan is as enigmatic as the country’s veiled women cloaked head to toe. How could anyone begin to help Afghan women in a place that irrationally resists democracy, and inspires suicide bombers? It is this simplistic perspective of a diverse and complex country that hinders international efforts at improving the lives of Afghan women. The road to gender equality requires nuance and cultural understanding. For instance, Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain makes it difficult for a weak government to enforce comprehensive legal measures to help women. I propose financially lean vocational training programs that sacrifice costly building projects for an emphasis on teaching skills to female entrepreneurs. Additionally, microfinance institutions can provide financial resources to those entrepreneurs. This is a promising investment that gives women the skills to invigorate their local economies for the rest of their lives, redefines the cultural perception of women in Afghan society, and alleviates the economist conditions that fuel extremism.
It seems as though the Afghan War has lasted my entire life, yet the media rarely speaks beyond generalities about Afghanistan. I chose to research Afghanistan to learn more about a country that few seem to know about, yet is the training ground for many of our enemies. I thought I would research state-building strategies, but I found the Taliban’s treatment of women to be interesting. Even though the Koran teaches gender equality, the Taliban needed strict gender policies to preserve morale among its fighters. I narrowed my focus to Afghanistan’s gender issues. Just as I learned there are factors other than religion to this problem, I realized there is more to gender studies than meets the eye. Indeed, gender issues influence the economy, demographic issues, security, and politics. Ironically, in this way my thesis still relates to state-building in Afghanistan.