Female Engagement Teams -- The Answer in Afghanistan?

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Sometimes I joke that if women ran the world, the economy would still be stable, things would have been a lot different on Wall Street, and more than a few Supreme Court decisions might have a different slant, especially when it comes to equal pay.

But it really isn't all that funny, because women do bring a truly different perspective to most important issues -- a perspective that's often overlooked. Interestingly, the Marines are taking a page out of that 'let's try things a different way' book with its recently formed Female Engagement Teams in Afghanistan.


It's no secret that things could be going better for us in that part of the world, but the standard playbook isn't working, especially in light of the vast cultural differences with how women are treated and women's own personal beliefs in that country.

The New York Times recently ran a great article on these FET's entitled, "In Camouflage or Veil, a Fragile Bond," which is a fantastic look into how women might be the key to a big shift in the Afghanistan conflict.

The factor that the mostly male superiors in the Marines have (finally) figured out is there is something major to be gained by tapping into the power of women and the influence they can have over the men in their lives. But the presence of the FETs isn't just about military strategy -- it's also about giving women hope and help, even if it's just about something small that we take for granted in our daily lives.

Corporal Dana Drew, one 25-year-old member of the FET, told Fox News, “One of the biggest complaints we get is ‘Oh, my teeth hurt,’ so we ask them, ‘Do you brush?’” Drew says many Afghan women have never even seen a toothbrush, so they show them how to brush their teeth and give them extra toothbrushes and toothpaste they get in care packages from home.

“We can’t solve every issue out there, but we can make a difference in their lives,” says Drew.

For the military, though, it's not just about the small talk, the tea, or the toothbrushes. The Marines hope that by making some small inroads into the lives of Afghanistan women, there will be an opportunity to find ways to solve the conundrum that is Afghanistan.

While we certainly have it a lot better here in America than our Afghan sisters, I wonder how much further we could take issues that impact women in the United States if some men in power thought it was worthwhile to sit down and talk with us over tea?

Joanne Bamberger often can't stop herself from pondering the intersection of women and politics, so she writes it all down at her place, PunditMom. Her book about how women and mothers are revolutionizing politics through social media will be published this fall.

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