Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner April 14, 2022
The Taliban has declared a war on women.
In this tumultuous year, our Western minds have ricocheted madly among multiple crises, both here and far away.
Seven months ago, we watched the chaotic withdrawal of American forces from the tormented Central Asian country of Afghanistan. They had been occupying the country for twenty years, through four U.S. presidents and billions of dollars.
The motive in being there was to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for militants, such as the 9/11 attackers in 2001, even though we now know that the main villain, Osama bin Laden, had been given sanctuary in Pakistan, an unreliable ally of the U.S.
The U.S. military had the goal of “creating” a stable modern democracy, but they were foreigners in a traditional culture, which had been through a civil war and a ten- year occupation by Russia. Despite great effort by many Afghans and others, Afghanistan resisted, for the most part, such an evolution.
A few days after the American withdrawal in August, the ultra-conservative religious and political faction called the “Taliban” (which, ironically, means “student” in the Pashto language), violently drove the fragile government of Ashraf Ghani out of power.
The national mood became one of dread. Canada promised to accept 40,000 Afghan refugees, of whom 8,000 have arrived, many with support from Canadian veterans who served there.
The misogynist and cruel Taliban regime is headed by Hibtullah Akhubdzada and a 26-man council. Famine is now widespread. There are stories of people selling body parts and even children, to buy food. Afghanistan, with 34 million people, is the sad home of the world’s highest percentage of widows.
The Taliban has declared a war on women. Girls are now forbidden to go to school past Grade 6. Women are driven out of the work world. They are not allowed out of the country without a male escort. Cruel public punishments are enacted on Afghan offenders, such as thieves and adulterers.
The U.N. says that $4 billion is needed immediately for Afghan relief, but the Americans, a major donor country, have announced that no aid will be forthcoming until the Taliban permanently reverses its decision about girls’ schooling.
Small public protests, led by girls, have taken place in Afghan cities. As Malala Yousufzai of Pakistan famously said, “Nothing is so threatening to tyrants as empowered women and educated girls.”
But then came the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin. The atrocities there have drawn our intense concern and attention.
As a result, aid and disaster “weariness” afflict many people in the west.
But not the Canadian organization “Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan” (https://cw4wafghan.ca). With its headquarters in Calgary and 12 chapters across the country, including a dynamic one in Peterborough, it educates, advocates and gets financial help to educational projects among girls.
The group together with the Red Pashmina Campaign, resumes its work with vigour on April 23 with the pandemic-safe, virtual, Red Pashmina Walk. With concerns about group gatherings, people are now encouraged to walk with a friend or small group that day, wear a red pashmina and donate at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The national organization raises funds, about $1 million a year, primarily for educational support including libraries, access to technology, online courses in several languages, teacher training and materials.
It is governed by a 14-person board of directors, issues tax receipts and is annually audited under the Charities Act. Dr. Lauryn Oates is its respected executive director. It started in 1996 when two writers, Deb Ellis and Sally Armstrong, began to tell stories about women’s status in Afghanistan.
The Peterborough chapter, formed in 2003, includes volunteers Daphne Ingram, Joanne Rowland, Janet Honsberger, Soriya Basir and Melodie McCullough, among many others over the years.
Their concern for women and girls in another part of the world, and their creative efforts to raise funds in support of education, while at the same time involving Canadians, are to be applauded and supported.
"Gleanings" is Rosemary Ganley's new book. You can purchase directly from the author at email@example.com or from >Amazon<