Still Work to Do

You may remember when I first wrote about that day in Afghanistan.

There was an incident that day that I left out of the blog. To summarize: there were 22 people on that mission: five of us were female. We hiked to a remote village to set up medical clinics: one for men, and one for women & children. I was there to document.

As we spread out over the mountain trail, one of the locals hired as a guide tried to sexually assault one of us. I came up on the scene a few moments after it happened, just enough to see him sprint away as another female attended to the other. I was pissed, and wanted to bring it to the others’ attention, but the two of them begged me not to say anything. They explained: if the commander was made aware, he would react by not allowing the females to leave the base on these missions.

And then what? They’d be deployed, away from their families and not able to do their jobs.

“Some punk thinks he can force me to fondle his dick? That’s not the biggest issue here. He’s gone now. It’ll be addressed later. We have work to do.”

So, they got up, and continued hiking, and when we caught up with the rest of the group in the village, some of the guys ribbed them for being so slow, not knowing what went down.

But we kept quiet, and got to work attending to the MANY women & children who sought our care. The male doctor and medics weren’t allowed in the same room. At some point, I put down my camera to help, offering the basic medical knowledge I knew from my military training & being a mom.

The baby girl in this picture would be about 12 or 13 years old now. I hope our presence in Afghanistan provided some good for her. I know there were more medical clinics after I was there. A school was built. Bridges and roads improved. Most of all, there were some badass women who really went thru a lot to tend to her and her mother, and the others. I hope that left a lasting impression.

But, oh, the things women tolerate just to do our jobs. And it bothers me that there are parts of the world where women are STILL considered second-class citizens, denied access to basic medical care & education. And respect.

To me, that’s why a day like International Womens Day is important. We still have work to do.