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Wilson discusses child advocacy at SMC

Michelle Eggers | Monday, December 8, 2003

Increased resources and a stronger military presence will be needed in Afghanistan to ensure peace and stability for the country’s people, said Leslie Wilson from the child advocacy program Save the Children. Wilson, who has been based in Afghanistan for the past nine months, discussed the country’s present social climate Friday in her talk “Update on Afghanistan: Women, Education and Development” at Saint Mary’s. “We are there for the long haul,” Wilson said. “We are continually working to build an environment where more people can be educated, more children can receive basic health care, where girls can go to school and where a culture of not violence can take hold.”Save the Children works with women of age 15-45 and children under 5 years old to ensure the rights to healthcare, literacy and security, Wilson said.”Security is really the key issue we all need to be concerned about in Afghanistan right now,” she said. “If security continues to deteriorate as it has, then there isn’t much hope for the future of Afghanistan.” Wilson described the lack of educational infrastructure and the conflict surrounding it.”The Ministry of Education sees education as school – as buildings, books and desks,” she said. “Save the Children views education as students and a teacher, as conversation and ideas.”To help solve this problem, Save the Children brings in the resources to build buildings. Then they work with communities to establish a form of education, Wilson said.”Nine times out of 10, what that means is they want a building for their boys to go to school,” Wilson said.But in every community, two or three families want their daughters to be educated and “Save the Children” then lobbies for women’s rights. “We want to ensure girls get whatever boys get,” Wilson said.The organization also advocates against the marriage of young girls, Wilson said.Wilson also described the difficult relationship between the military and nongovernmental organizations, such as “Save the Children.” The military has to be in Afghanistan to secure the organization’s position, Wilson said. However, the military needs to be in more places than they are.”There is no question the military needs to be there,” Wilson said. “But they need to be there bigger and they need to plan to be there for a long time. That’s the truth.”Overall, the Afghan people want the guns to go away and want peace and calm, Wilson said. “They know what progress is,” Wilson said. “Even if it is just that my child got the three shots that she needed to survive or my child went to school today, that’s progress. If you do that one hundred thousand times over, you can’t image they will let it slide.”Saint Mary’s Alumnae Relations Office, the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership and the Justice Education department sponsored Wilson’s presentation as part of the program “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.”