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A day with Afghan women

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Suan Tracy
  • 455 AEW/PA
I had the unique experience on December 17, 2009 of traveling by Army convoy to Forward Operating Base Lion located in the Panjshir valley to go with female servicemembers as they met with local Afghan women.

Troops at FOB Lion instruct the women on different agricultural projects that can provide additional income for their families to include growing the crop saffron.

Staff Sgt. Danielle Sempter, a medic from Swansborough, N.C. and deployed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, says that she views the interaction as very rewarding. "It means a lot to be able to go and talk to the women and hear their concerns and get to know them a little," she said.

First we went to a small office to drink tea and meet with a woman named Mirriam. She is the director for all the women's projects in the valley, and was very passionate about the supplies and training they were requesting. She told us that a meeting was being held in a small all-girls school to discuss the Saffron Project, which was an idea implemented in the area by a Texas National Guard unit called the Agribusiness Development Team.

The room in the school was jammed with 45 women; a range of pink-clad young girls in their teens to older women with gray in their hair met there to discuss how to better their future.

As each speaker stood up to speak about their concerns, our translator, Winna, whispered to us what she considered the key points. Some worried about the quality of their soil, others that there would be no market for their labor.

The crowd quieted as Mirriam stood up, holding a small plastic container full of the bright red saffron. She talked about how to plant it, how to harvest it, and how to sell the crop. She encouraged the gathering, telling them that the small flower and its profits would be able to change their lives. That they will be able to afford shoes and blankets, that their children could go away to better schools.

As I sat in the back row in that crowded classroom it struck me that these were the people we're fighting for. I see the occasional rocket flying by, I see the wounded heroes being treated in our hospitals, I hear stories about firefights, but I had never actually seen the people that we are here to help. It was very encouraging to realize that these people care about their country and bettering their lives. Change is happening in this valley, and it's name is saffron.