The Power of Women in Afghanistan is Growing! - DoD Roundtable

Imagine female pilots in the Afghan military! How about an Afghan Army Officer Commissioning Class of 29 women! Or 35% of the population of students attending college at Kabul University! As we spoke with Dr Jack Kem, Deputy to the Commander, NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan this morning you could hear the excitement of his explanations of where the issues of “gender main streaming” were headed.

Speaking primarily of military and police issues he was cautious about the progress but highlighted the successes and what they meant for the Afghan society as a whole. The Afghan constitution gives equal rights but a society impacted by illiteracy and fears is accepting women in areas such as border police, logistics and education. With about 1,000 female Afghan National Police Women currently serving, the country has a goal of 5,000 by 2014. They have great acceptance at the border points, airports and other locations with contact with the female population that is difficult for men. Surveys by the UN and others shows support for schools for girls and work for women outside the home (except in areas where the Taliban have a strong influence such as southern provinces).

The military is providing literacy training to female inductees and ensuring they have the same opportunities as males. With a national average of 14% literacy (the women are even lower) learning to read is critical for future success. In his 15 months in Afghanistan, Dr Kem said he has seen a lot of progress. He spoke of police training classes with a curriculum that includes crimes against women such as rape and other topics of interest that impact their lives. He admitted his surprise by the classes’ discussions and questions and their sensitivity (both male and female) to dealing with these rule of law issues. Great progress in a culture impacted by Taliban rule for many years that directly impacted the lives of women through lack of legal protection, opportunities and education. Here is a video on these classes!

The younger women soldiers can see a female general officer and full colonel in the armed services as helping to break through the doors of opportunity and progression. Recognizing the need to mentor women in the field NATO has placed Female Engagement Teams at unit level to help provide advice to female soldiers and help meet the challenges they face in a mostly male organization. Teams are led by a NATO female captain and reach out to assist the progression of women soldiers. The doctor spoke of plans to train the four female pilots in the next pilot training class so they can be turned around to be instructors for future women pilots. With the numbers of trained and literate soldiers and police growing the society is making up for the loss of literacy seen in the generation that grew up under Taliban rule.

Dr Kem said that, “peace and prosperity will be enhanced by the growth of women.” As the country develops the full resource of each citizen and sees the growth of literacy skills; its production, new comforts, desire for peace and happiness will be the next step! If you would like to read a transcript or listen to an audio of this interesting discussion please go to DoDLive. For other blogs on MilitaryAvenue on the Afghanistan War please go to Our Letters to You/Afghanistan!

Photo Credits: KABUL, Afghanistan - Air Force Lieutenants graduate from their first professional military course at Pohantoon-e-Hawayee present their graduation certificates from the Air Orientation Course. Graduation from this course is the females first step to service in the AAF. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jared Walker/ RELEASED).

Photo Credits Jack Kem, Ph.D., deputy to the commander, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan

Video: NATO Training Mission Afghanistan http://www.ntm-a.com/video?lang=


  1. When I first heard of these women my husband was deployed to Afghanistan with the Army. I had taken up writing poetry about the war during the second consecutive year of his deployment. They amazed me then, they amaze me now, as do the women of Iraq and all of the Middle East. When I am tempted to complain or whine at my lot which now finds me in my husband's third consecutive year of assignment in the Middle East, God reminds my heart of my own words about these miraculous women... I share them every chance I get.

    Young Women With Dark Eyes and Dark Hair

    Who are these young women with dark eyes and dark hair,
    With beauty that runs so deep, and courage rare?

    From what cloth were they cut, and where was it woven?
    Who was the artist from whose mind the colors were chosen?

    Of what fiber is the cloth and thread made,
    That forms their true hearts which when they were bade,

    By whispers to their souls of service to their country and us all,
    Without hesitation bid them answer that call?

    The fibers from which those threads took shape,
    Were grown by the people of their nation who do not hate.

    The seeds were planted in the soil by their fathers.
    Then the fibers were collected at harvest by their brothers.

    The thread of hope was spun by the hands of their skilled mothers.
    None gave heed to the threats of others.

    Then they were woven by their sisters, whose lives will be forever changed,
    By the steps that they take and the destiny they arrange.

    Finally from the Artist's hand, priceless treasure, a gift from Afghanistan,
    Came to the people of the world who desire only with honor to stand.

    Their mark and place in history their names will take.
    When their life's work is made for the peace that lies at stake.

    Who are these young women with dark eyes and dark hair,
    With beauty that runs so deep, and courage rare?

    Debra LeCompte, 2010

  2. Wow, Debra! That is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. Simply beautiful.

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