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Publication Date: Friday, April 19, 2002

Ms. Stasek goes to Kabul Ms. Stasek goes to Kabul (April 19, 2002)

By Bill D'Agostino

In Afghanistan, many civilians doubt America's commitment to their country's restructuring. They worry that once American soldiers capture Osama Bin Laden, they will abandon the war torn country.

If that happens, the country's people will remain poor and starving, and resentment of America will continue to grow in the region.

Next month, City Council member Rosemary Stasek will travel to Afghanistan to help make sure that the loss of American and Afghani lives in the region does not go to waste.

Assuming the political climate allows it, Stasek will depart on May 3, to spend more than 10 days in Kabul. Along with a group of mostly Afghani-Americans, Stasek is scheduled to tour street markings, mosques, shrines, schools and zoos. The group will also meet with victims of US bombings, political and media representatives, and heath care professionals.

Stasek is going to assess the situation in Afghanistan in an attempt to figure out how she can begin to help the country redevelop its economic infrastructure in the wake of America's war with Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Specifically, Stasek wants to help start micro-lending programs for women. The idea is to give small sums of money to widows, helping them become small-scale entrepreneurs so they can use skills, such as cooking or sewing, that they already possess to support their families.

Although Stasek knows what kinds of programs she wants to help with, she doesn't yet know how it will they implemented and what role she will play. "I've got to keep an open mind," she said. "It's important to not make decisions before I go."

Under the Taliban, Afghani women who previously had professional careers were forced into begging or prostitution. Over the last two decades of war, many of these women have also become widows, their husbands killed by the endless fighting.

Thus, supporting these women, Stasek said, is the best way to help the families and young children thrive as the country itself is being rebuilt.

Stasek is traveling to Kabul with Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that provides "reality tours" of poor regions around the world. In 1998, Stasek went to Cuba with the group as part of a women's delegation. There, she saw women in every sector of society from artists to politicians to fugitives

Stasek will be the only public official on the trip to Afghanistan. She will use her own money to pay for the trip, which will cost nearly three thousand dollars including airfare.

The trip is one of a series of things Stasek has done to try to educate herself and the Bay Area about the situation facing women in Afghanistan. In January, she hosted a forum of Afghani-American women at city hall.


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