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News | Dec. 17, 2012

Soldiers supporting Afghan girls' education

By Capt. Marvin Baker , 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade

KABUL, Afghanistan (Dec. 13, 2012) — As part of the ongoing effort to assist Afghanistan’s female residents, U.S. Soldiers regularly host bazaars for businesswomen.  While this is nothing new, efforts are now expanding to include the building and renovation of schools where girls can receive a quality education.

“What we are trying to do is invest in the women and the families here in Afghanistan, and specifically our neighbors in Ud Khiel, so that they can support themselves and their families,” said Lt. Col. Stephanie Purgerson, Camp Phoenix Base commander.

The camp bazaar isn’t new, but camp leaders are taking a new approach when deciding who receives access. In the past, more than 100 vendors from all over Afghanistan and the United States would pack into the camp’s square.

Now, said Chief Warrant Officer Beau Tidrick, who works with the local vendors, organizers ask the Ud Khiel leaders and the long-term venders on the camp who might best benefit from gaining access to a business and customers on Camp Phoenix.

In Afghanistan’s male-dominated society, a woman’s value is determined by her ability to bear and raise children. Although few men here consider how women might otherwise contribute to the family, Kabul is steadily changing the way it thinks.

“It’s the local men here who are supporting the local women,” said Purgerson.

In addition to hosting the recurring bazaars, Purgerson also supports the education plans of a local girls’ school principal. Ten years ago, most women in Afghanistan where not allowed to attend school. Since then, Afghan women have seen gains in support for education, economic roles at home and community interaction. Coalition forces also support the increasing importance women have in the future of Afghanistan’s security and stability.

The camp’s projects to build and refurbish schools will prove invaluable for building a foundation for Afghan education. These schools, especially the girls’ schools around Ud Khiel are currently little more than pitched canvas tents on donated land.

“The school principal isn’t needy, but needs help understanding how to negotiate the Afghan education system,” Purgerson said. “We want to help bridge the gap, build capacity and impart business skills, and we will continue to do that.”