The U.S. Agency for International Development’s $416 million, five-year program to boost women’s leadership runs the risk of being irrelevant in a country where, just last month, a woman was beaten to death by a mob of men in broad daylight for allegedly burning a Quran. In a video taken by an onlooker, a man is seen taking a concrete block to smash her head. Her body was then set on fire and thrown into a river.
The issue is not just the legitimate concerns over the difficulties of implementing, monitoring and assessing the impact of the program amidst a NATO pullout, as the inspector general of the government watchdog on Afghanistan reconstruction pointed out.
When I first moved to London from New York, I was blown away that I didn’t need medical insurance to see a doctor. All I had to do was look up National Health Service clinics in my area and go to the nearest one. Prescriptions cost me mere £7, and birth control didn’t even require that £7-prescription fee (in New York, I had to pay $50 every month out of my pocket because they were not covered by my insurance). Whatever NHS’s troubles, it seemed to me that they were doing a fine job.
Two years and a pregnant friend later, I changed my mind.
Aceh, Indonesia — When the Tsunami struck last December, Ibu Aja Cut of Teunom Village in the Aceh Jaya District on Aceh’s West Coast lost all her family members, save two grandchildren. Her house vanished off the face of the earth. The 70-year-old spent the next nine months in a six square meter emergency tent with her two surviving grandchildren. Two weeks ago, they moved into a newly erected temporary shelter. In the 36 square meter room with wooden walls, a metal roof, an open kitchen and two makeshift beds, Ibu Aja Cut, for the first time since the disaster, sees ray of hope.