April 7th, 2010
05:45 PM ET

Afghan women: Don't exclude our men

This post also appears in the AM Fix, American Morning's blog

In a place where women have few rights, it seems improbable women would plead for men's advancement too. But, it's happening in Afghanistan.

Not for the reasons you might think, but because many Afghan women realize without the support of fathers, brothers and uncles, they will remain second-class citizens.

For years, the United States has developed and funded special "women's only" programs to help women start their own small businesses.

And while those efforts have been greatly appreciated, some global women's groups wonder if these programs are as effective as they could be when it comes to achieving equality in a patriarchal society.

More disturbingly, some other women's groups say these efforts, if not done well, may actually endanger women.

"Women are put at greater risk of violence when they must return home to frustrated, unemployed husbands who don't understand why their wives are getting training and credit and they are not," says Ritu Sharma, president of Women Thrive Worldwide.

It's time, says Sharma, to look at helping Afghan women in a more inclusive way – and that means including brothers and husbands – as well as sisters and wives.

"Gender is about looking at the different roles ... that men and women have in their families ... and then designing projects that meet everyone's needs."

For example, instead of targeting only the woman in an Afghan family for, let's say, a "micro-loan," or a small loan, to start a family business, it might be wise to include her husband. In today's Afghanistan, the traditional family unit is all-important, and, like it or not, the husband is still the head of the family. He's not used to seeing his wife make decisions, let alone seeing her run her own business. But, if he is on-board with his wife's project, it might mean a gradual acceptance of his wife's new role in the family.

World Vision International, an organization committed to community development around the world, says "inclusiveness" works.

It's launched a project in Afghanistan, funded by the United States, to train midwives to curb the staggering infant mortality rate in the country.

Instead of concentrating only on training women to care for pregnant mothers, World Vision works hard to include their male relatives in the education process.

Christine Beasley is World Vision's country program manager for Afghanistan. She says developing trust within the family is the only way the program can work, since women cannot travel without male chaperones in more conservative areas of Afghanistan.

"Fathers were afraid for their daughters to travel to the hospitals for training because they feared they'd be harmed or converted to Christianity or taken away from the home for good," says Beasley.

But once the fathers traveled with their daughters they realized their temporary absence, "didn't destroy the fabric of their society," and actually "fulfilled community needs," since women in need of medical care cannot be treated by male doctors.

Male family members are often so impressed by what their wives and daughters can do, they now agree to travel with them to help other women in need in nearby villages.

Elizabeth Walumbe, who trains young women to be midwives says, "This is a chance to educate men [too] ... once they know the benefit, they become so supportive."

Walumbe has witnessed the transformation herself. She often invites the male chaperones into class or into her office to witness what she is teaching their wives or daughters.

"By the time they [leave] the office, all could see how empowered both the midwife students and their male chaperone had become just from the way they carried themselves. Their gait proved to us that we were indeed seeing transformation taking place in front of us, just by the fact that we involved the men in our activities with the students."

Sharma, whose organization advocates for women, takes the idea one step farther. She says it's time the United States and other countries consider including women in every project, not just women's projects. And, conversely, including men in every project, regardless of whether it's female-centric.

That doesn't mean Sharma isn't aware of how far behind women are in terms of skills and education – there is no doubt about that. "But," she says, "Afghan women are not satisfied with only women's projects. They also want to be part of the discussions on security, the drug trade and reconciliation. We have to be very careful that giving special attention to women doesn't mean leaving them out of everything else."

Sharma and others are urging U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to integrate genders across all of the United States' assistance programs and foreign policy, in addition to promoting women's empowerment programs in places where women need a special focus.

It's the only way, she says, that Secretary Clinton's own words will ring solidly true, "... human rights are women's rights ... and women's rights are human rights."

soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Ken

    Thank God someone finally said that the discrimination of the microloan industry against men is not only unfair but destructive. A lot of gender discrimination is justified with the mantra "empowering women."

    To the extent these companies operate in the US isn't gender discrimination in extending credit against the law? Where is the government enforcement?

    May 11, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. waheed ghilzai

    Finally some one is realizing that Afghan men indeed will assist the female family members if he is included and educated along side the women...bravo this is a great progress!!

    April 13, 2010 at 2:56 am | Report abuse |
  3. Craig

    LL11, the women make 70% of men is a flawed statistic. Although there are some women who work as hard as any man the average women misses more days, works fewer hours, has extended gaps in her career, is less likely to move to take a promotion, etc.. Before you tell me you know a women who works so hard, read my sentence again. There is a difference between individual effort and averages.

    But suppose what you say is true. Just imagine how wealthy even one women entrepreneur could be. They could hire all the women in the country, pay them 80% of what they are worth and still make a huge profit over their competition. Of course, then some other entrepreneur would see that and pay them 90% and still beat the competition. Then one would pay 95%.

    But wait. What stops that from happening all over the country, in all sorts of businesses ( half of small businesses are women run) right now? It would take a vast organized conspiracy to prevent this in a free market. And just one greedy person could ruin it. Or, on average, women like everyone else are paid in rough proportion to the value they add in a particular situation and location.

    Pay them too little, someone else will hire them, pay them too much and you lose money and go out of business. So stop spreading this lie, that clearly couldn't be achieved even if someone actively tried to make it happen.

    April 12, 2010 at 5:57 am | Report abuse |
  4. Andrew

    Hey LL11 – Women in our country today make less than men because of the choices that they make. It has nothing to do with discrimination.

    April 12, 2010 at 3:45 am | Report abuse |
  5. jamon76

    To LL11 the good news is that you will be doing all those things when Islam fully envelopes the rest of the world because western society has become so feminized it won't stand up to the advancement of Isalm, then you can try telling the Mullahs about equality right before they have you beheaded.

    April 12, 2010 at 2:29 am | Report abuse |
  6. Wes

    Real essence of women equality is, probably, visible most clearly in a divorce courts in North America. There, one hour of a woman watching a soap opera is equal to one day of hard work of her husband. The fact that most men after work contribute as much as she is to house work and care of children is ignored in our courts. Until we stop the out of control extortion racket that takes place daily in our family courts, men will continue to run away from marriage and our children will suffer in fatherless homes. Let's not impose our multibillion dollars divorce business on another country.

    April 12, 2010 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
  7. Trig

    This article was so shallow. The author needs to read Allan G. Johnson's classic "The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy" and "Privilege, Power and Difference" and get an in-depth understanding of how the world's gender systems really work. The author needs to realize that all nations view men as superior to women and that it causes tremendous problems in the culture. Men in all nations need to use their gender privilege to eradicate gender privilege. The feminist movement has done a tremendous amount of good work throughout the world and CNN needs to start respecting it.

    April 11, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  8. KTP

    To magic_marc – how ignorant of you to glorify the status of the Afghan family structure while attacking America's. "Good for them and their men"...how absurdly ridiculous. Many Afghan women are forced into marriages as young girls to old men, beaten by their husbands, and all are suppressed and viewed as less human than their husbands not only by society, but likely by their own husbands as well. Wow, what "light-years" Afghan women are ahead of us "selfish" American women...It is tragic that there are places in the world where women are still so terribly treated and the fact that you are congratulating such a place and essentially blaming all familial problems in America on those "evil feminists" is somewhat disgusting.

    April 11, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. LK

    It's not about dominance. It's about human rights. I grew up at a time when girls could not do many things, here in the U.S. (For instance, I wasn't allowed to take shop class.) However, as the mother of sons, I sometimes get frustrated by all the girls-only programs. Statistics show here in the U.S. that while our girls are making progress, our boys are falling behind. Continuing to discriminate doesn't really help anyone. We need to move away from gender-specific policies and help all people.

    April 11, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bruce, Idaho

    "Might!?" Cause problems? Better take a look at Unemployment demographics. Payback is coming.

    April 11, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  11. Mike

    Arias

    Danny boy is not off base. I was the victim at age 22 of a woman who was "empowered" who dumped me as being less than a "man" because I did not perform up to her standards. She declared herself a "go-getter" (a feminist creation) while I was a lazy, troubled, under-achieving male. Well, because she was a woman she had unlimited access to financial resources to go to college while I got nothing because I'm a "man". She didn't have six brothers and sisters either to compete with for resources for going to college with. She declared our relationship a failure because I came up short financially because I couldn't pay for trips with her while in college? I couldn't afford her agenda. It was also distracting. That woman has been divorced a couple of times because she was out of control. I've seen more men "burned" for this same reason.

    As I am a lawyer now, I am keenly aware that affirmative action was created to empower women to keep them out of poverty, not to start a the decline of the american family by setting up women to compete with men and for women to come up with the standards by which men are supposed to be competing against. I think you are confused and lack the education to be evaluating this issue.

    Did you ever stop to think that the reason why more women are graduating from college now is that women are able to get financial aid for college whereas men from middle class homes cannot? I think you are only seeing the side of this issue you want to see because you are an angry woman. I saw plenty of women like you in law school. Most of them five years out of law school couldn't figure out what to do with their law degree and couldn't control their emotions enough to get along with people to do their job. In that respect men and women are not equal. Men at some point learn to control their emotions so they can get their work done. That is why men still make more money than women. At the end of the day, the male brain is biologically wired to make objective decisions whereas women's brains use their emotions to make decisions and view the workplace as a place for building relationships. And you wonder why we can't compete globally? Look in the mirror lady.

    April 11, 2010 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  12. KevinM

    You can educate the women until they all have Ph.D.s and their social standing in the Muslim world will not change. It's the men that need to be dragged out of the cave and taught to walk upright! And until that happens, plan on all the barbarism that can fill a newspaper!

    April 11, 2010 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
  13. michael howard

    It never ceases to amaze me the damage we have done in our society with
    our "enlightenment".
    these afghan women are definatly lightyears ahead of their western counterparts
    in that they do something americans have long forgotten,looking past their own noses.

    I have to say that anyone who hasnt heard the "girls are better than boys"mantra
    has never left their own livingroom,boys hear it from the time they are in first grade.
    And honestly,anyone who is as sexist as western feminists are should stop talking about equality.

    statistical equality will never be achieved per se,in that there will always be differences.
    trying to make men and womens stats match does not take many variables into account,
    also,women dont look at where they are ahead and say we have a male equality issue.why? because they are looking at their own noses.

    April 11, 2010 at 4:01 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mike (DoD - Iraq)

    I don't think many of us here fully understand the fact that the Afghan culture is IMMENSELY different then that of America's. They hold so closely to their Islamic ways and the majority of them DESPISE our seemingly forced-upon Christian-based views.

    How would we feel if, for example, certain Buddhist values were forced upon all of us? We'd blatantly reject it! Because that's NOT who we are (Buddhists).

    Its funny that we make such the argument that we are here about equal rights between the sexes, when our very own Christian Bible teaches that wives should submit to their husbands. Now granted, also according to its teachings, husbands are to respect thier wives, but we can't even get that right most of the time.

    Therefore, I feel we have NO right to force influence on another country's people that is contradictory to thier very own society's values, and even more-so, thier religious values – as these two (society & religion) in Afghanistan (and much of the middle east) tie so closely together, that in many ways, it can be seen as one. Much unlike the US – where society is a pretty-painted picture that tries to make everyone happy by comprimising so as to not offend the various religions of the nation.

    April 11, 2010 at 3:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jenny Casti

    You cannot force a family structure on another culture and expect to "fix" it. What if we in the US were poor and were getting aid from another country? And what if only men could get that aid because the country giving it decreed that MEN are IN CHARGE of the family. How many howls and shrieks would we hear from our sisters?

    April 10, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  16. V

    Its great that some of their women are getting help. The only real problem is that our help in most cases may not work. Their culture is nothing like America's and we have to think things through and be very mindful of their perspective and on the 'good deeds' we are doing. So in reality there still will be cases in Afghanistan where the men will punish thier women for becoming independent of them because that's what they may think they are doing.
    It is also highly probable that if you were to give the men the option to have joint control in thier women's business that the women would not be able to learn how to have their own business. Since the men in her life could push her to the side (docile like they train them to be) and take over her business.
    Not everyone in the world is the same but from the 'social norm's' in this culture this may be the highest outcome.

    April 10, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Ric

    my problem is the reasoning of these women for wanting inclusion for their husbands...To lessen the chance of violence from the frustrated , unemployed Husbands?....I would think that what really needs to be addressed is the fact the women would accept violent reactions from their husbands as the norm and strive to include them rather than finding any kind of violence as acceptable. I am impressed however with the womens' interest in their version of equaility...Here in the states when the feminist movement caught on I was impressed but it went in the wrong direction...Women wanted to be like men in all ways as well as copying the harmful, foolish things that men do. More women started smoking which lead to more women with cancer..More women wanted to become as promiscuous like their male counterparts , which lead to making STDs more mainstream. More women wanted to be the main breadwinner, so we now have kids raised by nannies with cold relationships with their mothers. I even recall when women started to feel comfortable going to a strip show to see male strippers, I thought to myself, .I don't even go to strip shows because I think throwing hard earned money to a stripper is stupid..Women show strive to be better than men, not just equal..

    April 10, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  18. El Gordo

    Helping women is not hurting men. Women in Muslim countries are oppressed by their religion and by their men. They need help. If we can help them we should. Men in Muslim countries have opportunities that the women do not. Muslim men should be happy that their children are living a better life because their wives are making a little money instead of feeling sorry and resentful. They need to grow up and be men. Be strong instead of insecure and complaining.

    April 10, 2010 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  19. PatA

    Comparing current Afghan and American cultures is like comparing apples and oranges. While any economic development program needs to be cognizant of a country's cultural/religious climate, I'm confused by those comments that use this article to criticise modern American values. Afghan women are not allowed to travel without a male relative chaperone, and would be allowed to die rather than be treated by a male doctor. Why bring up our divorce rate? Is divorce even allowed in Afghanistan? Women aren't full citizens there. While programs hoping to be successful need to work within the realities of a situation, I don't think most western women, or men for that matter, would trade our modern struggles in order to live the life of most Afghanis.

    April 10, 2010 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  20. Fleno

    Hats off to the Afghan women. They too realize that by supporting men's rights they are helping themselves. I hope the men of that country see that and respond by helping the women. Only by working together can men and women flourish.

    I hope that one day the American women come to that same realization about men. Especially when it comes to family court. By the way john b above – I echo your words exactly!!

    fleno

    April 10, 2010 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  21. MarcosD

    If we start with the idea that we're trying to raise the standard of living in a country (Afghanistan) and promote gender equality then we have to acknowledge the effects on men of policies that they will object to or feel excluded by. My understanding of the micro-lending and micro-loan organizations is that they get a significantly lower default rate by funding women because women are more sensitive to and responsible for the needs of the larger community. In general women who have access to a pool of funds feel responsible for repaying a loan in order to allow that pool to fund the next business. That keenly felt sense of responsibility makes repayment likelier. Unfortunately men, having a higher default rate, indicate they (we) aren't as dependable.

    However, some men get so disturbed that they are excluded that they obstruct or won't support the women's efforts. It then makes sense to create lending, grant giving, and job training policies that include men while ensuring an acceptable return on the money lent, granted, or costs of job training. There's going to be more trial and error necessary to achieve the right balance in trying to achieve both gender equity and acceptance from both men and women.

    April 10, 2010 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
  22. Asten

    >> jim
    >>Some people
    Well Most of the world had taught themselves to be more modern. They have also have taught themselves how to use cars, respect women, use guns, build skyscrappers, establish middle and upper class jobs, and fly itsself to space.

    April 10, 2010 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
  23. Nikkey

    Whereas I do see the need for unbiased empowerment, I do also see the need for empowering women. When you have a strong history of discrimination towards any group, a sense of weakness becomes a dominating factor. Being constantly told "you can't", eventually you will believe it. Persons with this mentality DO need that extra attention to be shown that it IS possible, that they CAN do it.
    And i do think that some men are insecure with the progression of the feminist movement. They see these programs aimed at providing women with increased opportunity, and become upset that they are not included. My problem with this, is that they ALREADY have the opportunity within their grasp. Why do they feel entitled to the assistance that this time is not aimed at them? Whats so wrong with helping the underdog without helping the top dog?
    and @ Abdulameer.....Most religions call for the subordination of women, christianity included. Problem one, all of those books were written by men (go figure). Problem two, the true subordination that a wife will give to her husband will come from respect not force. Herein lies the problem with the "law" you mention. From the abuse and disrespect shown to many of the women, they are forced into submission from their husbands because their husbands have not earned it. That's not love by any definition, that's disgusting and pathetic.
    And I can safely base this on my own experiences. I respect my husband as the head of our household, and I am submissive to him within reason. This, because my husband has earned my respect. I will be graduating with my master's soon, and I will be the bread winner. This is all welcomed by him, because we both see this as a union, not a competition. Where I gain, so does he. He supports my pursuit to further my education, and I love him more for this. Maybe we can take a cue from this example. Oppression helps no one, it only hurts. My husband is the epitome of a man and he is my equal.

    April 9, 2010 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Mike

    John B – right on.

    April 9, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  25. John

    This model by the US of divide and conquer. They will favor on gender over another in order to divide the community and create tension.

    April 9, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Ynotliberty

    It's funny how, when removing ourselves from one extreme, we often go straight to the other...

    April 9, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  27. john b

    This is in response to the comment made by Jennifer Miichfelder (I hope I spelled that right.) Why is when women and so called enlightened men (usually men who feel gullty about the thoughtless way they treat the women in their lives by throughing off on the rest of us) talk about men and equality or men receiving any kind of acknowledgement for anything good we use terms such as "men can't handle it" or "men are just too insecure about (fill in the blank)....." but when we talk about women and feelings and their needs we almost always use some sort of comforting and validating terms? When do women and enlightened men catch a clue that putting men down doesn't do anything but put these so called enlightened men and women in the same catagories as the "Archie Bunkers" and "rednecks" of the world? Your sexist comments are no less sexist, lame, and stupid/thoughtless than the men you complain about and degrade.

    April 9, 2010 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  28. jim

    How many of you "oh-so-politically-correct" people are planning to move to Afghanistan to make certain that the "enhanced empowerment" of women remains in place after the American military forces leave? You don't really think you are going to train them out of their centuries old habits, do you?

    April 9, 2010 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  29. Roybatty

    Oh Dannyboy – It’s always amusing to hear men complain about how boosting girls self confidence somehow emasculates male-kind. If you were a real man you’d stop complaining about women’s achievement’s and get to work on some of your own. You obviously see women’s accomplishments as a threat, just like the poor Afghan men in this story do. Maybe we should hold your hand as well and show you that your mother, daughter, sisters accomplishments in America does not hold you back. In fact your male feeling of entitlement – that somehow you deserve to be in charge and respected – is ironically your problem. Earn your respect!

    April 9, 2010 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  30. LL11

    Hey Dannyboy – where has equality been achieved? While more women graduate from college than men and more women hold advanced degrees now, women still make 70 cents on the dollar to men – in the same jobs Men still hold 490+ of the fortune 500 companies, while we have a woman speaker of the house, there are only 74 out of 435 total, 12 women in the senate out of 100. There are hundreds of stats like this, while I know most women are glad to be American (or Canadian or European) instead of Afghani, we are not really equal yet.

    And although I agree with you that many girls are being raised with a sense of entitlement, it is both genders. It is the past few generations being raised by permissive parents, never telling them no, buying them anything they want, I see the attitude among the 20 somethings at work.

    I'd like to see those statistics you mention – where women initiate 60-80%. I really don't believe that, but let's accept it for now ... just like in Afghanistan woman may have more options now than they did in 1920 or 1950, we have degrees and jobs and can support ourselves so we don't have to stay in an what may be an abusive relationship. That's bad? Very easy (and very typical!) to blame women for your problems, but why don't men ever look at themselves and think I need to change, or I need to improve? It's never your fault is it?

    And neither my daughter or I have every seen that PC "girls-are-better-than-boys" attitude either. Perhaps just your own sense of inferiority? Or you just don't like girls being treated as equal? Girls shouldn't raise their hands in class? Girls shouldn't play sports? We should just cover ourselves up and follow our men around?

    April 9, 2010 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  31. Gene

    It's very easy for some armchair quarterbacks to sit back and criticize another culture. But it's a safe bet that none of these sanctimonious individuals will be moving to Afghanistan to defend those women when they are beaten and mutilated by some frustrated Afghan man. There is a right way, and there is a wrong way, but sometimes you just have to go with the lesser of two evils.

    April 9, 2010 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
  32. Arias

    @DannyBoy,

    Yours is some seriously short sighted thinking. You're use of stats like the divorce rate and by which sex it is initiated (65% is the figure BTW) to criticize female empowerment makes absolutely no sense. So since that is 15% above the 50% you would expect if there is equality amongst sexes, are you seriously claiming that women are more at fault for initiating divorce?!? The failure of marriage comes down to the responsibility of both parties, not who initiates the divorce.

    You have a very typical blame the victim chauvinism where you can't see past your own superiority complex. Claiming the problem lies in the "entitlement attitude" American girls are raised with. Uh, last time I checked the "entitlement" phenomenon was a problem that applied to both genders of the most recent generations. So from your POV, boys aren't raised with an "entitlement attitude"?

    You speak very patronizingly of women, condescension galore claiming "All the garbage we shove in their heads ... blah blah blah ... does not match up with reality", as if women are categorically incapable of independent thought and are mere puppets of propaganda yet are responsible for "damaging" a man's self-image and the high divorce rate. You appear to have issues where how you perceive the opposite sex clashes mightily with reality. Where do you get this "girls are better than boys" mantra you claim the feminists adopt? Get your facts straight, striving for equality is a completely different thing than aiming for superiority. You clearly have your head up the latter.

    April 9, 2010 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  33. american

    i'm an american citizen and a man. don't exclude me either.

    April 8, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
  34. Abdulameer

    Afghanistan, whose official name is "The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan" is, indeed, an Islamic state whose constitution forbids any legislation which contradicts the laws of Islam. That is why Afghanistan recently passed legislation which requires women to obey their husbands when the husbands demand sex and when the women would like to go outside of the house. The Afghani population is, by and large, religiously Islamic. That means they take the Koran, Muhammad and Sharia law seriously. All of those holy sources require the legal subordination of women to men.

    April 8, 2010 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  35. Dannyboy

    @CMC

    "To Magic_Marc, it isn't the empowering of women that has led to the worst family structure in the world, it is some mens inability to assimilate to it that has created problems."

    America has a 50% divorce rate, and somewhere between 60-80% are initiated by women (I don't remember the exact stats). That is literally a toss of the coin. The real problem is the entitlement attitude that American girls are being raised with. All the garbage we shovel into their heads – Twilight books, Cosmo love advice, self-esteem classes, etc – does not match up with reality.

    The politically correct girls-are-better-than-boys attitude has to go. It damages boys' self-image and creates an unrealistic entitled worldview among women. If feminists want equality, they should stop over-promoting the female gender in the arenas where equality has actually been achieved.

    April 8, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Alsider

    A man who cant support his family feels like a failure... A man who feels like a failure becomes desperate...and the desperate men become terriost....

    April 8, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  37. Matt

    "Sharma and others are urging U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to integrate genders across all of the United States' assistance programs and foreign policy..."

    Wow, that was unexpected. OK, so they are urging the Hildebeast to "integrate genders" in these programs,. Presumably this means that they want to see her make or advocate for these various non-sex-dependent services being available to men too? Holy cow! Alert the press! But wait 'til they find out what kind of creature they are dealing with. Her years of gender feminist indoctrination will not be so easily set aside and they will see her real agenda.

    The "women need more help than the men" stuff is of course still in this article and the attitude is there, even though men are, despite the Hidebeast's past assertions, the primary and most numerous victims of war (whether as war-fighters or civilians). But even so, it is unexpected to see any kind of advocacy for the male sex coming from anyone anyplace, especially under such war-torn conditions. Amazing.

    April 8, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  38. commentator

    So wait let me get this straight.... not excluding people (be they male or female) from a process results in no one feeling excluded or feeling resentment? WHAT A CONCEPT!

    It's shocking that such a novel concept is so hard for some people to grasp.

    @Jennifer Michelfelder: Fail. Equality means equality. As in all sides being equal. In a partnership: don't give it to one person, give it to both. Equality.

    April 8, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  39. Know Maam

    HAHAHAHA ohhh this story will drive the self-centered western feminists into a tizzy. Unlike the Afghan women they are man-haters pure and simple.

    April 8, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  40. Peacewalker

    Noone ever changed a society without having strong allies in the part of the population that holds power. Keeping women suppressed is the primary cause of the disparity among nations. Until women have respect and contribute equally to public life, countries will remain economically weak and inherently violent. What most people do not realize is that men who have been removed from interactions with women tend to be more violent and extreme. The only way for men to learn to respect women and their potential is to spend more time with them and learn along side them. Only then can men and women become equal partners in the struggle for better lives and a better world.

    April 8, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  41. Reg

    Why is it that "understanding" that is presented as "new" by science is accepted more readily than revealed truth?

    April 8, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  42. beleiver

    Programs that help women don't necessarily mean it is outcasting men its just that women were given the chance to help themselves, their family and the society. But if certain culture or religion prohibits so, then with all respect, dont consider this comment..

    April 8, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  43. Jennifer

    Empowering women IS empowering the whole family unit. Just like empowering men by giving them jobs is empowering whole family units.
    Even with NGOs, women still have way less job options than do men in Afghanistan.
    But whatever. Whatever works. I would hardly call the American family structure the "worst family structure in the world. " I enjoy seeing American families (normally) just as thrilled and delighted when a girl baby is born as when a boy baby is born. I enjoy seeing the way American daughters grow up being alongside their American brothers. And I think American daughters enjoy it too. Giving girls an education, freedom to pursue jobs that suit the gifts they were born with, freedom to explore their planet –, I would call all these things wonderful things that Afghanistan could learn from *our* family structure. And these tings have come about from our model forb empowering women, aka feminism. Thank you feminism!

    And of course we could learn some things from Afghanistan - we all have much to learn from each other. But how to treat our girls and women is not one of them. Duh.

    The point of singling out women to empower is that in Afghanistan women are severely, severely, UNDERempowered. The mean are underempowered too there, the poor ones especially - but to compare their status to womens is stupid. Read up and see how bad women have it in Afghanistan - it continues to be horrific.
    And not every woman has a husband to be empowered WITH. With all the "empowerment" of women going on in Afghanistan it is still one of the worst places on the planet for a female to be born. You can't think a man will support you all your life. Men can die, leave, divorce you, become sick, whatever.

    April 8, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  44. VJM

    The article tells me two things:
    – Equality can be achieved when you bring a group at a lower "status" to a level equal with the higher "status"; when you take one group and elevate above then that is something else.
    – Afghanistan has so many other problems, to try to address equality at this point will not bring about the intended results.

    Not saying i know the answer BTW......

    April 8, 2010 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  45. CMC

    To Magic_Marc, it isn't the empowering of women that has led to the worst family structure in the world, it is some mens inability to assimilate to it that has created problems. A fine example of this is women in the military. There haven't been any major problems reported about how women handle their jobs in the military, but sadly, it is some of the men in the military that have raped and terrorized the female soldiers. This isn't about the women, it is about some of the men. The same applies to the story here. One can only assume by your post that you long for the "good old days" when a battered women had no financial choice but to put up and shut up and a woman required a man's approval for a loan or a mastectomy. If you think the Afghans have it right, you must think the phrase "all men are created equal" to be literal and that "freedom and liberty for all" is just a catch phrase with no real meaning behind it.

    April 8, 2010 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  46. Magic_Marc

    Our model for empowering women has lead to the worst family structure in the world. These Afghan women recognize how selfish it is to simply take for themselves. In that they are already light years in front of American women.

    Good for them and their men. They will outlast us, our freedoms and our money.

    April 8, 2010 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
  47. A. Smith, Oregon

    If Muslim women are denied education, equality and empowerment, Muslim extremist elements will continue their reign of terror on women.

    Muslim women should be given every possible manner of advancement in education, training, defense and small arms proficiency to defend themselves and work towards equality and women's empowerment.

    April 8, 2010 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
  48. Nathanael [desert voice]

    I like the concept of Ritu Sharma: men are people too! No sensible family can thrive if men are neglected. There is a powerful lesson in what Sharma is doing. I believe that families, which often consist of a single male or female, ought to be empowered jointly! Under no circumstance should sex be the reason for empowerment. Rather, people should be helped as a function of their economic necessities. Everything else is ultimate unfairness and discrimination!

    April 8, 2010 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  49. Jennifer Michelfelder

    It's a wonder it took this long to realize men can't handle being excluded from anything as important as his subordinates education & success.

    April 8, 2010 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |