June 4, 2011: women and girls at a literacy class in Anjil, Afghanistan.
June 4, 2011: women and girls at a literacy class in Anjil, Afghanistan. AP
What happens to the gains, modest as they may be, that women have made in Afghanistan the past 10 years once the U.S. begins to withdraw its troops?
Tell Me More host Michel Martin explored that important question today with Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, deputy director of the Council on Foreign Relations' Women and Foreign Policy Program, and Samira Hamidi, director of the Afghan Women's Network in Kabul (a collection of women's groups).
Lemmon, author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, notes that in the summits and international gatherings about Afghanistan's future and the futures of many other nations, the discussions always seem to be between men in suits and men with guns (figuratively).
Women, she says, are treated as if they're a "special interest group" rather than half the population. And because women are "good actors," they get penalized. "If they pick up guns, they get a better voice. They get talked to," Lemmon says. But women don't tend to do that.
Still, Hamidi says she is optimistic that Afghan women will be able to hold on to the gains — in education and in representation, for example — they have made since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.
"We will have our voices. We will carry on our advocacy," she predicts.
Much more from the discussion is on today's Tell Me More. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show.