At a critical time, when the government and citizens of Afghanistan are determining the future of the country, the questions have to be asked: Why do Afghan women still face the barriers they do? Why is it that women are still part of the worldwide struggle for economic empowerment? And, how can their economic situation be altered to allow them to help shape the future of their country? Instead of just asking the questions, Spirit of America is actively working to empower women at the village level through economic development. opportunity. The need was to strengthen the economy of the village; the opportunity was to empower women to meet that need through vocational training and small business development. To fully understand the situation I have to back up a little bit. A short time ago this project would not have been possible in the area due to security concerns. The Taliban and other extremist insurgent groups, who had influence in the area, would not have tolerated the development of vocational training for women and would have responded with violence against the women. However, the men from these villages started volunteering to participate in the Afghan Local Police program and take ownership of the security in their villages. Seizing the opportunity to capitalize on the improved security, the Cultural Support Team (CST) contacted Spirit of America. The CST Captain had previously engaged with the Afghan women in the villages. They expressed to her a desire to receive seamstress training because it would be the most valuable and viable option for economic improvement for them in their area. With the help of a professional seamstress, the CSTs developed the lessons and chose specific classes to ensure that proficiency would be achieved. The course was taught by experienced Afghan female instructors and covered everything from initial fabric measurements to basic business strategies. With mentorship from the instructors, the women made garments that they were able to sell. When the course was over and their training complete, each woman received a sewing machine of her own so she could put her skills to use and continue to earn money. Some groups believe that the future is bleak for women in Afghanistan. The country, as a whole, does have a long road ahead of it; no one will argue that point. But every country has room for improvement, even ours. If we expect to see change tomorrow, we have to work toward it today. When I look at these formerly Taliban controlled villages where 20 women just received vocational training and are now providing for their children and supporting themselves economically, it gives me hope. Spirit of America is supporting those who are working to bring about change. These Afghan women are proof that Afghan society can change, one person, one village at a time. Chris Clary Field Operations Project ManagerI received an email from an Army Captain who saw a need in the community she was working in. But she didn’t just see a need; she saw an
Chris served as a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant in Afghanistan where he mentored Afghan Commandos from 2010-2011. He volunteered to return in 2012 to work with Afghan Local Police and Afghan National Police at a Village Stability site in central Afghanistan, and also took a leave of absence from SoA to deploy once more to Afghanistan with his Special Forces team in 2015.