This photo came from a story in the Woman of the World section of the Daily Beast. You can find the whole story here. Looking at those beautiful determined faces catches my breath.
On Thursday, Congress took an unprecedented step to ensure women’s meaningful participation in the stability and democratization of their nation. In passing the 52nd National Defense Authorization Act, they authorized funds specifically for women in the Afghan forces, designating a minimum of $25 million to bolster their ranks. With women comprising only one percent of the Afghan National Police and 0.3 percent of the Afghan National Army, the consequences of not doing so would be dire. Without female security officers, Afghan women will not be allowed to vote. Most voter registration and polling stations are sex-segregated. Female security personnel are needed to staff women-only polling stations, which remain closed if there are no women to fill the role. There’s a lot riding on the April 2014 presidential election—not least, protections for women’s rights. The best way to maintain the hard-earned gains of Afghan women is to elect a president who will uphold them. And the best way to elect a president of that profile is to enable women to vote. To effectively counter terrorism and violent extremism, there must be women in the police and military. Last year in Afghanistan, there were at least 13 recorded accounts of male insurgents dressed as women entering restricted areas from which they launched attacks. There were no female body searchers to stop them. Beyond circumventing targeted attacks, women expand the capability of security forces to engage populations affected by insecurity and natural disasters. Expanded engagement means better collection of information and stronger understanding of context, which ultimately results in more effective operations.