The challenge for Afghan women

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Since fleeing to Pakistan, Afghan women have found themselves increasingly marginalized. Living in crowded refugee camps in a foreign country, their movements are severely restricted. ``Afghan nurses are sometimes jeered at by the men or mullahs in the camps, simply for going out on their own to work,'' says Kate Cita, an American pediatrician working in Pakistan.

There has been considerable pressure among the more traditional and fundamentalist resistance parties to keep women separate. And Western agencies who fear upsetting Afghan leaders' sensitivities, sometimes offer them inferior education and job opportunities.

``This is a grave mistake,'' says American researcher Nancy Dupree. ``Women, who represent 50 percent of the population, have got to be included in the reconstruction. Most ... planners are only talking of men. But they will not have success unless there is a female component.''

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Mrs. Dupree stresses the need for international programs to provide equal facilities and training. Most Afghan girls ``want to go into traditional careers such as teaching or medicine, but I also know girls who want to become engineers. I know one who wants to become a pilot.''

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