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Jerri Shaw Explores Women's Rights in Afghanistan

May 13, 2015

I know, why on earth would an American woman--a CEO of a busy Federal and nonprofit contracting firm--voluntarily travel to a place like Afghanistan?  Friends and family thought I was crazy.

The simple answer is, I have spent most of my career expanding rights for vulnerable populations in the U.S., and had a personal interest in making a difference in a place where so many women are horribly mistreated – with rape, acid attacks, mutilation, torture, attempted murder.

For years, I’ve supported Women for Afghan Women (WAW), the largest nongovernmental organization providing shelter to Afghanistan’s victims of gender violence. WAW has helped more than 15,000 women and children since 2007 via its shelters, transitional houses, halfway houses and more. While living in these places of refuge, women rebuild their lives, learn to read and write, learn a vocation, attend university and, ultimately, earn an independent living. WAW really challenges the norms in Afghanistan, and works to get women represented in political, social, cultural and economic life. I was eager to spend more time with WAW and see this for myself!

I observed that like much of the world when it comes to women’s rights, Afghanistan is a place of contradictions. As one of eight professional women who visited WAW’s programs for victims of gender violence in Kabul and Mazar in March, I was heartened by the many strong women--and men--I met who have dedicated their lives to eradicating violence and promoting women’s rights. At the ground level, often the front line of the fight for women’s rights, the change is occurring one family, one woman at a time. But the numbers of people touched, the reach of this work, and the results are striking. 

Over the next week, using these entries from my travel journal, it's my hope that you take something away from my observations and experiences.

Next:

May 14: Adventure begins in Kabul

May 15: International Women's Day in Afghanistan

May 18: Meetings With the First Lady of Afghanistan and Other Diplomats

May 19: Afghan Men on Women's Rights

May 20: Medical Needs of Women in Afghanistan

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