U.S. Army Sgt. Ginifer Spada

April 2011


Raishea is a young Afghan girl of about fourteen. She has a shy smile and a soft voice. She is quite like most fourteen-year-old girls I know. Except that her reality in Afghanistan’s war-torn Nangarhar Province is something that most people can’t fathom. I got the incredible opportunity to meet her last month in Jalalabad.

Here in Afghanistan, leaders have many hard decisions to make and there are many grey areas. I don’t envy them as they plan the best route for their Soldiers. There is one area, for me at least, that is not grey - Afghanistan’s women, and in particular, it’s girls and their education.

These young ladies are vital to our success here. By educating them and supporting them in their independence, we are giving Afghanistan the future it deserves.

Raishea was talking to female Soldiers and interpreters when I walked up to their group. She seemed very interested in the little parts of the Soldiers’ lives; like what they did, how old they were, whether or not they were married.

Raishea also gave an impromptu concert. Her voice was lovely and though I couldn’t understand the meaning of her words sung in her native Pashto, the beauty of them was undeniable.

Through an interpreter, Raishea and I talked about her life. She said one day she wanted to be a good journalist.

"That is how I will improve my life and be a witness to peacefulness in Afghanistan," she said.

Wow. Not something that I thought about at fourteen. For girls like Raishea though, the future of their country is a very real issue. Knowing that she cared so much about it was inspiring.

As an Army broadcast journalist deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, I have a great job. I get to travel around the country and tell the story of our Soldiers over here.

This day though, the story that I was telling was less of our Soldiers and more of the women of Afghanistan. Women all over the world were celebrating their rights and trying to shed light on the areas that needed work for the 100-year anniversary of International Women’s Day.

In eastern Afghanistan, they gathered at the governor’s compound to give speeches, read poetry and sing. For a country that only a decade ago faced the harsh hand of the Taliban, these women seemed remarkably like the women I knew from home.

There was another little girl acting older than her frail body showed. She was very young, six or seven, about the same age as my niece. She spoke no English and didn’t bother to keep close track of her parents, but was armed with a well-worn Sony Cybershot camera.

As the local media and I moved to video or photograph an interesting speech or group of children, this little girl was right next to us. She would run to the front of the group to ensure that she had the best angle for her pictures. Dressed in a bright yellow ensemble, her dark curls secured closely to her small head with a barrette, she was not afraid of anything.

When others hung back from the governor, as to not intrude on the important man, she marched right up and snapped a few pictures. Then she proceeded to hop on the man’s lap as she passed her camera off to a willing man so that she could have her picture snapped. To me, she was so much like my own nieces, so much like the little girl that I once was. She seemed to have no idea that what she was doing seemed odd to many of the more traditional Afghans there. In her mind, she was every bit as deserving as the men that were running the cameras.

She is right. She is, to me at least, the future of Afghanistan.

I met her father later that afternoon. He was one of the photographers at the event, which explained why his little girl was so interested in taking pictures.

One day, years from now when I think of Afghanistan, I hope that the painful parts will fade and the memory of the beacons of hope that I saw that day in early March will be what I remember. They are the future here. They embody everything that I think is right with this world, whether it is here in Afghanistan or at my own home in the United States.


Coco Loren

on April 8, 2011

This is a wonderful article! I too believe that future of Afghanistan's economic development and stability lies in the hands and hearts of the Afghan women and girls.

This point is not lost on the U.S. or her allies, and is center-stage for U.S.Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her promise to support these brave women and girls in their struggle for basic human rights.

Thank you for sharing!

Coco Loren

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