Thursday 25 October 2007

Girls and Women, Girls and Women, Girls and Women

We at Birth Pangs are heartily sick of this bullshit meme.

From the recent throne speech:

Our mission in Afghanistan is a noble and necessary endeavour.

It is making a difference in the lives of men who were victims of Taliban oppression, for children forced to live in ignorance, and for women who had no human rights.

From Peter MacKay:

We are supporting women who, under the Taliban regime, were forbidden to go to school, to work or to vote. . . . We are building a future for children, so that they can all be educated, have access to medical care, and have the freedom to grow up in a climate of security and hope rather than in fear.

And from Bev Oda:

"After years of conflict and insecurity, Afghanistan’s education system is one of the weakest in the world. This has deeply affected the country’s ability to rebuild and sustain itself,” said Minister Oda. “But progress is being made, and Canada continues to reinforce its role as a leader for education in Afghanistan, particularly for women and girls."

Well, thank Gord for the Canadians.

Um, well, maybe not. Today, UNICEF released a report on Afghanistan's children.

25 October 2007 – Violence, a decaying health system and unabated attacks on schools in Afghanistan are combining to hamper progress for the country's young people, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned today.

The agency's “Child Alert Afghanistan” report, launched in Geneva and Kabul, is based on the findings of Martin Bell, UNICEF UK Ambassador for Humanitarian Emergencies, who made a a two-week trip to Afghanistan in July and August.

“Despite a multitude of plans and proposals, projects and partners, and the support of many countries working to bring peace and progress to Afghanistan, I have witnessed a spike in insecurity that is causing more and more schools to close and more and more children to be killed,” said Mr. Bell.

“Families, especially in the South, are caught in the middle of this crossfire, out of reach of humanitarian assistance. Simply put, it is make or break time for Afghanistan's children.”

As conflict engulfs large parts of Afghanistan, Child Alert underscores the need to pull together the security necessary to allow children to go to school. Forty-four school attacks occurred in the first six months of 2007. Girls' schools and at times girls themselves are targeted, stalling or reversing progress in female education made since the fall of the Taliban regime, and causing attendance to drop significantly in secondary school.

Health workers lack access to over 40 per cent of the country, and even those areas that can be reached are under constant threat, according to the report. It argues strongly for greater efforts to address the high maternal mortality rate in Afghanistan, where more than 60 women died daily in 2005 from pregnancy-related causes, while nearly 900 children under five died every day in 2006.

So, who you gonna believe? That wacky so-called CBC poll?

Maybe not. Allison at The Galloping Beaver ripped that to ribbons. As did the Canadian Peace Alliance:

This new poll is not the first of its kind to be done in Afghanistan, but the results are striking because they contradict dozens of comprehensive studies conducted by other agencies. For example a remarkable 73 per cent of respondents in the D3 Systems study said that women's rights were improving in Afghanistan. This contradicts the NGO Womenkind Worldwide which found that attacks against women have actually been on the rise since 2001 and that there had been no improvement in the lives of Afghan women as a whole.

The time to end the 'girls and women' bullshit is long past. The time to get the fuck out of Afghanistan is long past.

(First published at Birth Pangs.)

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