As Isla Vista women began to take back the night on Monday, foreign aid worker Alina Labrada stopped at UCSB to explain how Afghan women are taking back the classroom.
Labrada is a representative of the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (C.A.R.E.), an international aid organization headquartered in Atlanta, Ga. At a presentation held for a small audience at the Counseling and Career Services Center, Labrada recounted her recent experience working to improve women’s education in Afghanistan.
“There are approximately 700,000 women all over Afghanistan who have been widowed by the wars,” she said. “We’re working in only three districts of Kabul with 10,000 of them. So, as much as we do for them, and as grateful as they are, they also see the need to go beyond that assistance and plan for the future; they want vocational training, they want education.”
At the presentation Labrada described the severe poverty in Afghanistan and various C.A.R.E. programs attempting to assuage the problem. She repeatedly expressed great hope for the improvement of women’s social status in the country, but warned against forgetting Afghanistan’s needs once the media spotlight ceases to focus on the war-ravaged country.
Though Labrada experienced none of the gender discrimination so often reported in Afghanistan and felt welcome during her visit, she said the country is still fraught with vestiges of Taliban oppression, which kept women confined to domestic tasks and prevented them from receiving an education. She recalled her encounter with a young girl who informed Labrada that she planned on one day being the president of Afghanistan. The mere existence of this girl’s political aspirations is, in itself, inspiring, Labrada said.
“I got [in Afghanistan] in December,” she said. ” The Taliban had fallen by then, and I spent most of my time in Kabul. However, I was able to go out a little bit in the provinces. Mostly, I was involved in programs emphasizing education and vocational training for women during my visit.”
C.A.R.E. is one of several organizations interacting with Afghanistan’s transitional government and is inextricably connected to the new political institutions.
“The government is relying on a lot of humanitarian organizations, including C.A.R.E., to basically get the ball rolling. They build up their own resources, not just in terms of money, but in terms of things like building schools through cooperation,” Labrada said.
Amy Hansen, a graduate of UCSB’s Global Studies Program, said that while the audience was smaller than expected, she didn’t think it indicated a loss of interest in Afghanistan among students.
“I thought this event would be packed,” she said
Amy Kakiza, one of C.A.R.E.’s assistant directors, was one of three other representatives who accompanied Labrada. Currently, 450 C.A.R.E. members work in Afghanistan; the program in that country has existed since 1961.
“Because C.A.R.E. is very financially responsible, 90 percent of donations go to programs and only 10 percent go to cover our overhead costs,” Kakiza said. “C. A.R.E will be accountable for every penny spent.”
C.A.R.E. was formed in 1945 following World War II and currently operates in 68 countries. Over 20 American organizations joined forces to speed much needed supplies in the form of C.A.R.E packages to war survivors. Labrada mentioned that the care packages people receive today are named after those historical parcels of relief.