American, Afghan women join together for tea, discussion

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Julie Weckerlein
  • U.S. Central Command Air Forces Public Affairs
Several influential Afghan women from Laghman Province joined female Airman and Soldiers for tea, pastries and conversation Sept. 5 during a meeting here.

It was an opportunity for Americans to educate the women on the various humanitarian and security programs in place for them and their communities, said Capt. Heather Kekic, a public affairs and information officer for the Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team, deployed from Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

"Afghan women in general are very influential in their communities -- they hold the authority in their homes," she said. "They talk to each other, to their children and their husbands and that is a very powerful way to get information spread throughout the province."

The women ranged in ages, but all of them work in some way for the Laghman provincial governor, either as program directors or teachers. This was the second time they met with the Americans here.

During this particular event, the Afghan and American women gathered in a conference room, where traditional tea was waiting for them, along with various pastries and pies from the United States. With the help of a translator, the women immediately began talking about their families, their jobs and the upcoming Islamic holiday, Ramadan .

"There is a difference between these meetings and the meetings with the men," said Capt. Christa Lothes, an intelligence officer for the Laghman PRT.  "The men will sit quietly and wait their turn to speak, whereas with the women, everyone will speak up all the time."  Captain Lothes is deployed from Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

As the chatter shifted from topic to topic, important points were addressed.

A few of the women brought up the fact that they have received threats because of their jobs for the governor. One woman reported her son had seen strange men with rockets walk along the riverbank, while another woman spoke of her fear every day to walk along the roads in her village.

"They are very concerned about the security within the province," Captain Kekic said. "They are just like us, they want their roads to be free of bombs. They do not want their families hurt or killed by the violence."

The Americans shared phone numbers for the provincial coordination center (similar to 911 in the states) and information about the various quick response teams in the area, and implored the women to call should they, or their families, see anything suspect.

Other topics discussed included possible women's meetings in the local villages and future reconstruction and humanitarian aid projects around the province. Calendars and shawls were handed out by the Americans as gifts. 

Following the meeting, some of he Afghan women pulled out lipstick and cosmetics to compare, which brought out smiles from the Americans.

"Out here, I pretty much stick with Chapstick," Captain Kekic said, "but if they want to show me some nail polish, I'll look at the nail polish."

The Afghan women always look forward to meeting with their American sisters, said Sharin Taj, the Laghman Province's director of women's affairs.

"We get attached to the women here," she said through a translator. "We get together and get to know each other, and that friendship is very important."

She said with the Americans help she hopes the women of Laghman Province are able to enjoy the freedom that has eluded them for decades.

"We have suffered a lot, but we all want the same things," she said. "We want freedom, just like the rest of the people in Afghanistan, and we want education, good families and good jobs. All of these things are very important."

She said that the sacrifices made by the American women are not lost on any of the Afghan women.

"You can ask any female in the village," she said. "We know that (the Americans) have left their families, their children and husbands, to come here and help the people of Afghanistan. This is a very honorable thing, and we really appreciate that."

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