News Day Tuesday: In Poverty and Strife, Women Test Limits

Moises Saman for The New York Times)
Zeinab Husseini, 19, sits in the drivers seat of her vehicle accompanied by her husband. (photo: Moises Saman for The New York Times)

Moises Saman / The New York Times)
Second Lt. Nahida Rezai, 25, was the first woman to join the Afghan National Police in the town of Bamian. (photo: Moises Saman for The New York Times)

Habiba Sarabi, governor of Bamian (photo: Zalmai for TIME)

So I know that last week’s headline was kind of a bummer.  Knowing that sexist men get paid more is kind of like saying the CEO of a long-established investment firm should get more than 300 million dollars in bonuses even if his firm ends up declaring one of the largest bankruptcies in history, thereby contributing to the current global financial meltdown.  Ahahaha!  Wouldn’t that be a riot?  What’s that?  That actually happened?  Oh.

Well, sexism and financial crises aside, fear not fellow citizens of the GBD!  For the plucky women of Bamiyan, Afghanistan are here to lift your spirits!

First up is Habiba Sarabi – governor of Bamiyan.  And not just any governor mind you, but the first and only female governor in Afghanistan.  And this woman’s got spunk.  Bamiyan’s a small town, ravaged by years of war and hardship.  So you would think (ok, so I would think) with all the problems that come with war, that protecting the environment would be the least of the governor’s worries.  And I would be wrong.  She is working to establish Band-i-Amir as Afghanistan’s first national park, and she means business.  When a platoon from the Afghan National Army visited the park and left their trash behind, Governor Sarabi called them back and lectured them – told them to clean up after themselves.  The army.  Yeah…she’s not joking around.

Next up are regular citizens like Nahida Rezai and Zeinab Husseini, who are breaking down cultural and gender barriers in order to support their families.  Rezai is the first woman to join the police force in Bamiyan.  Husseini is the first woman to drive in Bamiyan.  Yep.  To drive.  Think about that one for a second.

And finally, there are the many women of the 17,000 Community Development Councils throughout Afghanistan, including Bamiyan.  There are both men’s and women’s councils, each of which come up with their own ideas for local development projects.  In Bamiyan, one of the projects the women’s council came up with was to install solar panels to provide light, and now the project has opened up all sorts of possibilities, such as computers, televisions, and educational programs.  You can read more about all of these fabulous women here.

Why do you think the women of Bamiyan have been able to make this kind of progress, despite all of the obstacles and hardship they face?  Actually, hold that thought.  First I should ask…do you think what is happening with these women IS progress?  There are quite a few people in the world who would argue otherwise – that to continue with this type of change will only lead to the breakdown of the very fabric holding their communities together.  Thoughts?


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8 Responses to “News Day Tuesday: In Poverty and Strife, Women Test Limits”

  1. Lydia Says:

    Danger, poverty, war, discrimination,…we can’t imagine what these women have to endure, what or who they are up against. I think it is amazing what they have accomplished.
    I say WOW! to their spirit, courage, perseverance and positive attitude.
    I believe it is progress and I’m sure these fabulous women will inspire other women all over the world to take action and to believe in themselves.

  2. Kendra Says:

    Fantastic News Report! These women are all inspirational and embody the essence of woman, which to me is community, compassion, and courage (just to name a few).

    For these area’s of the world this is progression at its finest.

    Let me ask you this ladies, how do you think the world would run differently if women were in charge?

    Do you know how many women their are in the world vs. men? I encourage you to look 🙂


  3. O.T Says:

    I think things are the way they are for a reason. I was wondering to myself the other day about poverty. Why is there poverty? I think that there is poverty because it helps us give to others. I mean we as human beings are just naturally selfish I think. I don’t like poverty, but it helps us be more compassionate as people and to look outside of our box and see whats going on and how we can make a difference.

    I also believe that’s why there are some poeple that have it rough like the Hoyt family. We need encouragement and hope.

    @Kendra, On the 1st of July 2007 the world population was 6,602,224,175 that means that more than 3, 301, 112, 087 are women.

  4. Ashley Says:

    It’s true. But I believe it’s the strength we have as women to over power men and break into doing things their way the way they should be done. We need not to be scared of men ladies, honest there are more of us than there are of him.

  5. Emma-Lu Says:

    Courage in the face of adversity!
    I think these women are so brave in their determination to uplift their communities. Great article, thanks Kathy x

  6. G Says:

    I find it kind of funny that North Americans ramble on and on about how women are oppressed in the Middle East, because they don’t understand the culture and religion, yet look at what the women over there have accomplished and will continue to accomplish. I think these women have done so much, because they actually value those chances they get to make a difference and prove themselves as an equally able gender. They do not take this for granted like a lot of females from other parts of the world do. So they make sure that the chances they get count.

    I’m sure the exact ratio for men and women, but I remember hearing that women outnumbered men , whether that’s true or not, I don’t know.

    Hmm…I’m really not sure what I envision a world in which women were in charge would be like. I mean if such a scenario existed, then I would imagine society would have been like that from the beginning so would the women be the more aggressive gender? Would the male and female stereotypes be reversed? If so, would anything even really be that different?

  7. Jessica Says:

    In reference to poverty and trials and progress: I go to church with this elderly couple who comes to visit me often and check in on me and my daughter. They served a mission in Myanmar (not sure I spelled that right) where, according to them, poverty is everywhere. Not the kind of poverty I think I am in right now–we’re talkin’ destitute. This couple has shared with me many of their experiences with the people of that region. They say that when people have nothing (in the worldly sense) they have faith–which by definition is things which are hoped for and not seen. How can you know if what you have faith in–whether it be in yourself, in someone you love, in an idea, in a God, etc.–is sure or true until after it has been tried? Isn’t it faith that helps us to see past the gap between the sacrifces we must make and the blessings we can receive if we make them? Think about all of the hard times in your life. Did it seem like you were making progress at the time? Could you see the way out in the face of discouragement? What was it you were hoping for that helped you see, that helped you make the effort to edure through the trial? Did you know for sertain that things would work out if you kept on going? Or, did you have faith that your labors would bear fruit? It is always after the trial–after you make the sacrifice, or effort–that you receive a witness to your faith. Someone could argue that these ladies are not progressing simply because their efforts are small and simple, but it is by small and simple things that great things are brought to pass. These women obviously hope for something and therefore work (action word) and put forth effort to bring to pass the blessing (reward) that they desire. I think there is something to be learned there. I know we all have different trials–maybe not as severe as what these women face, tho severe to us–but ultimately I think we are here on earth to learn the same things. By looking to each other I think we can learn a lot faster. The examples of these women however great or small are causing us, right now, to evaluate our own integrity and strength. They remind us what we have to be grateful for and what should be our priorities. Isn’t that progress? Isn’t every day we TRY progress? I think so. I think these women are nourishing the seeds of their faith (the hope for something better) and helping to nourish the seeds of faith that are being sown or have been sown in the hearts of those who witness the power of their good desires. Fo’ sho!

  8. Hammad Says:

    That was beautiful Jessica.

    I have witnessed the destitution first hand that you are talking about. I’ve seen child beggars in my parent’s country covered in dirt asking for rupees. On the Hajj, I saw an old man, probably in his late sixties or early seventies, and if I remember correctly, with one arm and what appeared to be disfigured legs, sitting somewhere on the plains of Arafat begging for money. I don’t know how he got there, and I had no idea if he had any other place to go to. I literally felt sickness in my heart because I was carrying no money at the time to give him. When I think of these people, it sometimes makes me ashamed about complaining when I don’t get the things I want because I have so many more things than them. So, I try to be as grateful to God as I can when I remember because even though we may have some power in our situations, like these women who are doing what they can to better their situations, I know that there are many things that are out of our control, and I could have just as easily have been put into the situations of those I just mentioned.

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