Twelve women in Kabul took driving tests Saturday, marking the first time since 1992 women have been permitted to drive in Afghanistan. The tests followed four months of preparation and training–offered by the German aid agency Medica Mondiale. One of the students, Giti Negbin told the BBC, “It’s so that we can solve our problems by ourselves. Not just driving, we want to do everything where we can solve problems ourselves.” Male passerbys like Zamari, who only offered one name, expressed support for the women. “We are happy for women to have such progress here. Now we can see it with our own eyes… I only hope we can have more peace and more progress in Afghanistan,” he said, according to the BBC.
Women’s health programs are also getting a boost. Following a call last month by Afghan health official Ferouzudeen Ferouz seeking international aid to combat the country’s maternal mortality crisis–the highest in the world, the US Health and Human Services (HHS) department on Sunday announced $5 million in the FY 2004 budget requested for Afghan maternal and child health programs. In addition, the State Department said last week that $25 million originally appropriated for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) would be also be directed to maternal, reproductive, and child health programs in Afghanistan, according to Kaisernetwork.org.
Meanwhile, the lack of security in Afghanistan continues to hinder the work of aid agencies. Recently, two security guards for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) were killed in an attack. Consequently, relief work in the districts of Sherzad, Hisarak, and Khogyani have temporarily halted, according to the BBC.
The Feminist Majority and others urge the Bush administration to support the expansion of international peacekeeping troops beyond and within Kabul.