NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan Public Affairs
KABUL- A handful of American female volunteers currently deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, handed out 50 boxes of blankets, clothes and other winter supplies to the Shahram Garden June 18.
According to volunteer Raelene Hampton, an equal employment officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kabul’s Shahram Garden is a place where Afghan women can feel safe and free.
“For many Afghan women, there’s a chance they could be married off as early as 9 years old,” she said. “Some, at age 14 could have as many as two children and are often beaten by their husbands. In Afghanistan, this is a reality for many women. The garden brings them hope, comfort and peace, even for just a moment, to Afghan women who are uneducated and dealing with extremely horrible possibilities.”
Seventy years ago, Shahram Garden was opened for Afghan women. After many years of war and during the Taliban rule, it became a garbage dump of rubble. More than a year ago, with international funding, the Garden was revitalized back into a safe, comfortable place for Afghan women.
The Garden offers a gym, sports classes, a computer lab, vocational training, literacy classes and an area for the women of Kabul to buy and sell goods. Only females and male children under the age of 12 are allowed in the garden.
“According to the culture, the men are very strict, so they don’t like sending their wife or daughter to places where men are also going. Because of that, we made the Women’s Garden. Many women that come here stay because they are safe and free and don’t need to wear their scarf or burqa,” said Karima Salik, Director of Women’s Affairs at Shahram Garden.
In the Afghan Constitution, women are promised equal rights as men, permitted to work outside the home in a professional environment, be politically active and are free to seek out education. However, women still need to be encouraged to go to school in order to learn their rights.
Although violence against women happens all around the world, in Afghanistan, said Salik, it happens more often because most Afghan women are uneducated and don’t know that abuse is illegal.
“The men support their family and give them food,” said Salik. “Because of this, they say they are legally entitled to treat their wives as they see fit. If you provide the situation to educate women more and teach them about their rights, then they can defend those rights and understand what is protected under the government. That is one of the reasons the Garden is here.”
NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan is a coalition of 38 troop-contributing nations charged with assisting the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in generating a capable and sustainable Afghan National Security Force ready to take lead of their country’s security by 2014. For more information about NTM-A, visit www.ntm-a.com.
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