discussing “the future of afghanistan” at the 2011 wfwi luncheon

May 26, 2011  |   column: WHAT'S NEW

our creative director, deborah lloyd and ceo, craig leavitt, hosted a table at the annual new york city women for women international (wfwi) luncheon. zainab salbi, wfwi’s founder and ceo, welcomed guests and set out the theme for the panel discussion that followed—“the future of afghanistan.” wfwi currently serves 33,000 afghan women, all whose futures lay in the balance as the opposing factions in the country attempt to broker peace.

zainab opened her comments with an old talmudic saying—“we see things as we are. we don’t see things as they are.” she explained this as each of us bringing our own perspectives and prejudices to everything we encounter and described why it’s important to “lift our political burqas” and see other cultures as they truly are. she called the afternoon a “bridge-making lunch to understanding afghanistan as it is” and went on to use the personal example of having visited afghanistan many times but only first understanding, after traveling there with the kate spade new york team, that it’s a country with a longstanding craft-making tradition. she also talked about the two stories of war—one the story of the men who are fighting and the other the story of the women who keep life going in the midst of the conflict.

the panel, made up of zainab, isabel coleman, a senior fellow at the council on foreign relations, sayed ishaq gailani, president of the national solidarity movement of afghanistan and author sebastian junger (whose recent book, “war,” recounts his time spent embedded with our united states troops in Afghanistan), tackled the complexities of bringing stability to the country and establishing a strategy for united states withdrawal. while the takeaway from the lengthy and fascinating debate was that there’s no single answer to these questions, all agreed that it’s imperative for the afghan government and economy to be stable before the us leaves. and of course, that everything possible be done to ensure that women’s rights aren’t negotiated away in the reconciliation process as secular groups bargain for control of the economy with religious groups who want control of personal freedoms (including marriage, divorce, custody and education).

the thought-provoking afternoon left most in the room more committed than ever to supporting the critical work that wfwi does throughout the world and to trying to understand the daunting issues of establishing peace around the globe.

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