Defence women in Afghanistan celebrate International Women's Day
8 March 2011
Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel deployed to the Middle East have marked International Women’s Day by acknowledging the important contribution of the 213 ADF women deployed on operations in Afghanistan.
Australia’s mission in Afghanistan is to help build the capacity of the Afghan authorities in Uruzgan province to the point where they can take over the security and development lead there. An important part of this mission is successful engagement with the local population, which is being facilitated in large part by the International Security Assistance Force’s (ISAF) establishment of Female Engagement Teams (FETs).
The FETs support education programs, economic development and the provision of health services to the local population and provide an opportunity for local Afghan women to discuss openly with the female soldiers their concerns and needs for improving their lives and those of their families. The FETs also provide school supplies and medicine to the villagers.
FETs also work in close conjunction with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Uruzgan, a multi-national effort led by Australia, which has a female development assistance program. Within this program there are specific female engagement projects relating to women’s education and healthcare. The PRT also works with the Director of Women’s Affairs in the Provincial Government.
Together the FETs and the PRT work to improve the living conditions and access to basic services for rural Afghan women and their families in Uruzgan who represent one of the most isolated and disadvantaged population groups in Afghanistan.
Corporal Jenny Sapwell of Mentoring Task Force 2 has participated in a FET patrol where she and a female interpreter went to the village of Sorkh Lez to meet with and talk to the local female population.
“Pleasantly there were no problems entering the qualas (compound) and speaking to the women. It was great to engage with them as it is rare to see females out of their homes, let alone being able to speak to them,”Corporal Sapwell said.
Captain Sarah Vesey of the Joint Task Force Headquarters regularly attends activities and development project sites in Uruzgan and is encouraged by the increasing numbers of females taking an active role in the community.
“A simple measure of progress is the number of women doing their shopping in the bazaar and it is has gone from very few to about 100 a day,” Captain Vesey said.
In a significant milestone for women in Afghanistan, Uruzgan Province Governor, Mohammed Omar Shirzad recognised the role of women in Afghanistan by hosting over 150 Afghan and Coalition Defence servicewomen at an International Women’s Day function on Saturday 6 March 2011.
Imagery is available at: http://images.defence.gov.au/fotoweb/Grid.fwx?archiveId=5003&search=20111989
Media contact: Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664