|Afghan, coalition forces celebrate AAF women|
By Capt. Tristan Hinderliter, 438th Air Expeditionary Wing
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (March 8, 2013) — Afghan and coalition partners came together March 7 for a celebration of gender integration in the Afghan Air Force during an International Women's Day event hosted by the AAF at Kabul International Airport.
Approximately 275 people attended the event, which featured speeches by Afghan and U.S. officials, including Afghan Lt. Col. Latifa Nabizada, the first female helicopter pilot in the history of Afghan aviation, and U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, Air Forces Central Command director of mobility forces.
"You and your sisters have courageously chosen to take action, to work outside the home, to speak out, defend your nation and your families, and say no to threats of corruption, abuse, and exploitation," Van Ovost told the audience, which included dozens of Afghan women. "Together, you defy the extremists that wish you and your nation harm, those who want to restrain progress and turn back the clock on you and your families."
"Over the last four years we have made the Afghan Air Force your home," Maj. Gen. Abdul Wahab Wardak, commander of the AAF, told women in the audience. "The door is open to join."
Other speakers included members of the Afghan parliament, Ministry of Women's Affairs, Ministry of Defense and Andrew Steinfeld, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization deputy senior civilian representative in Kabul.
"International Women's Day is an opportunity for all of us to recognize the achievements made around the world toward equal rights and equal opportunity between men and women," Steinfeld said. "Achieving gender equality is a task for all of us collectively, and NATO is doing its part."
Advisors with the International Security Assistance Force, which is led by NATO, continually work with the defense and interior ministries on the recruiting and retention of women, he said.
"This work has seen great progress, and I'm pleased to see so many Afghan Air Force officers and recruits present here today," Steinfeld continued. "I'm also very glad to witness the support women in the AAF are receiving from the very top levels of military and civilian leadership."
There are currently 30 military and 16 civilian women in the AAF. There are 401 women in the ANA and 1,500 in the Afghan National Police, for a total of 1,901 women in the Afghan National Security Forces.
Afghan Maj. Gen. Juma Nasir, chief of human rights and gender integration at the Ministry of Defense, said women play an important role in the peace process and bringing security to Afghanistan.
"We as leaders of the Afghan National Army must defend the rights of women and provide them a positive work environment," he said.
The festivities also included Afghan poetry reading and a luncheon of traditional Afghan food. The women's day events were planned by the AAF with the assistance of air advisors with NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan.