Monday, November 19, 2007

Fighting Afghanistan's other war

Rich Corsino has given us a different picture of what is happening to the people of Afghanistan. Kandahar is close to the center of the most contested area of the country and yet the progress in literacy and especially among women has been encouraging. As he notes, this is not very glitzy but the provision of this service to the country will make the difference between success or failure in the struggle against the Taliban.

Rick Corsino
National Post

"I was recently in Kandahar City, where the news bulletins will tell you the heart of the Afghan insurgency lies."
"I was most struck by the literacy projects I visited, where I spent time with some of the poorest women in Afghanistan"
"The mix of unending conflict, poverty and strict cultural mores governing the role of women in society has meant they have led extraordinarily difficult lives."
"Through the hard work of local Afghan government officials, who build trust within the community about the content of the curriculum taught in the learning centres, and thanks to the funding to buy food which acts as a powerful incentive, these women are now being allowed out of the home."
"Those I met talked about the confidence they have in being able to read signs in the street ... But most significantly, they said they had more respect in their family and community as they now had some education and were contributing food."
"As military forces from many countries challenge insurgents opposed to the fledgling Afghan government, aid agencies from the same countries are contributing to security in a far quieter, but just as critical way. They are helping alleviate hunger in Afghanistan."
"Few people know there is a hunger problem in Afghanistan."
"Despite the worsening security, which has made our operations far more difficult to deliver, most donor countries have realized the benefits in supporting food assistance. In the short term, we are supporting the chronically poor, as well as those displaced by fighting. But in the long term we are coaxing well over a million kids back to school with daily rations."


hannah said...

Funny you should post this now, i was reading in the December issue of the Atlantic an article about a woman who set up a soap-making factory in Kandahar. You can't read the entire article online if you're not a subscriber, but the university library system ought to have it available. It's called "Scents and Sensibility" by Sarah Chayes.

The Atlantic was my plane reading on the way back from the MESA conference in Montreal. It was a fascinating experience for me; i'll write more about it later, but the most notable thing is that in his keynote address, the outgoing MESA president strongly condemned the anthropologists embedded with the military in Afghanistan. i also had my first experience of the disdain most academics seem to have for the State Department: my nametag definitely got me some dirty looks!

Bob said...

Hi Hannah,
Yes, the academic world finds it very easy to be self-righteous about these things, even if they have given no close examination of what is going on. IN the mean time they are happy to accept government funding and to publish work that is useful to repressive regimes, or to refrain from criticizing a regime in order to ensure they can return to do their research. The problem for all of us is that we live in a broken world. There are no simple solutions to the world's problems and it appears to be inevitable that when we try to help the mess we get messy ourselves.
Thanks for your note. RLC