The education of Afghan women according to the World Bank

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, IN  - Afghan relief activist Bibi Bahrami talked about mass poverty and illiteracy in her home country while retired journalism leader Marilyn Weaver told stories about flying into war torn Afghanistan in a helicopter gunship to find women to educate.

 It was all part of efforts by the World Bank, Ball State University and other money interests to bring young Afghans to the United States, get them educated and try to create a sustainable community in the near Asian country that has been the victim of war for over 1,000 years.

 Bahrami, Weaver, and Julie Lebo, a professor at Kansas State University, were all part of a discussion during Afghan Week at the university. Hundreds of Afghan and Islamic families live in Muncie and Delaware County and there are scored of relief efforts designed to education and improve life in that country that is also rocked by corruption from American corporations doing business there besides the government run by President Hamid Karzai.

 Bahrami's story has told many times before as she directs relief efforts to Afghanistan and has been responsible for building a school, health clinic and training centers with local contributions. She also hopes to serve her Yorktown community by running for Yorktown School Board.

 At age 12, Bahrami was a refugee fleeing the Russian occupation of the country in 1979. She came to the United States and was educated at BSU and then decided to help her family and friends find the same opportunity in the country.

 She targets fellow women who live in a secular religion and separate from men of Islam. About 29 percent of Afghans are educated while only 14 percent of women have schooling.

 "If you educate a woman, you educate a family," said Bahrami.

 Lebo went to Afghanistan to find professional Afghans to Kansas State who wanted a master's degree and return to teach in colleges. She said Afghan women not only challenged gender separation but also challenged ideas of established Afghan religion and customs. Her work was funded by a grant from the World Bank that invests in education with third world countries.

 Weaver, a retired BSU journalism department chairman, agreed to help with a local program to build a new media for the country that now depends on radio as its primary source of news. She recently traveled to the country in an armed helicopter to recruit young Afghans who will study at the the university's journalism department in January

 While the Afghan Constitution ensures equal rights for women, Weaver said Karzai has tried to suspend those rights. Karzai recently blamed American contractors for corruption in his country, according to the Washington Post. The bottom line is the Afghan state remains another example of a military intervention like Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq that has failed.

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