The Foreign Service Journal - October 2014 - page 38

Sensitivity and technical know-how are at a premium when working
in these fragile and insecure environments.
Learning from
Women’s Successes
in Afghanistan
Sandya Das is an Afghanistan assistance program o cer in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. She previ-
ously served in Juba, Mumbai and the Executive Secretariat.
fter spending several years in Iran
as a refugee, an Afghan teenager
named Ra qa was nally able to
return to her hometown in 2002—
only to be forced within months to
marry a much older man. Robbed
of her childhood, she endured
an abusive relationship with her
husband for several years in hopes
of giving her daughter a brighter future.
In 2009 Ra qa used a program funded by the Department
of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration to take
classes on Afghan family, property and inheritance law.
courses, taught by a nongovernmental organization that part-
ners with PRM, changed her life.
Equipped with knowledge about the legal age of marriage,
marriage contracts and the accountability of both sides in a
contract, Ra qa was empowered to prevent her family from
marrying o her young daughter, which would end her daugh-
ter’s education and leave her vulnerable to domestic violence
and early or unwanted pregnancy.
Helping Other Rafiqas
Far too many of the six million refugees who have returned
to Afghanistan since 2002 still face similar hardships. But
fortunately, the United States has stepped up as the leading
international donor in terms of humanitarian assistance and
protection there. During Fiscal Year 2014 alone, Washington
has programmed more than $175 million in humanitarian
assistance to international and NGO partners that operate in
Afghanistan and assist Afghan refugees in the region.
PRM also addresses the needs of internally displaced
persons and other victims of con ict in Afghanistan, work-
ing closely with Afghan government o cials, the O ce of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and various
international and nongovernmental organizations that priori-
tize women’s protection and needs.
ese programs deal with
health care; access to education; water, sanitation and hygiene;
employment; and gender-based violence prevention.
Embassy Kabul’s Refugee Coordinator leads a team that
monitors and evaluates PRM’s assistance projects in Afghani-
stan, and frequently meets with our NGO partners to review
project benchmarks. For instance, in 2011 that o ce identi-
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