On the Eve of the Surge ... What About the Women?

by Sara DavidsonThe Women on the Web

In a mud-brick building on the outskirts of Kabul, 25 women are sitting on a faded red carpet, learning to read. They're barefoot and their palms are dyed orange with henna. We visit the class on our first day in Kabul and find the students, who range from their 20s to their 50s, on fire for learning.

Ninety percent of Afghan women are illiterate, we are told by Farida Faqiri, head of Women for Women, an NGO that teaches women to read and trains them for jobs. "Our mission is to give them confidence, let them know they have rights and can play important roles in the community," Farida says. The first thing her organization does when starting a class in a village is talk with the local mullahs and assure them, "Everything will be done according to Islam. The prophet Muhammad said women should be educated, so please allow them to go to school."