Constitutional Emergency

Civics Training bolsters Rule of Law in Paktya

From Troop Scoop

By AF 1st Lt. Lauren Johnson

PAKTYA PROVINCE - The Paktya PRT completed the 6th Civics Training class in Jaji District, as part of an initiative to expand Rule of Law in the prov, Oct. 29.

The training includes instruction on the roles and responsibilities of the govt, from the President of Afghanistan down to provincial and district level, as well as constitutional law, and women's and children's rights.

“Unfortunately, most women here don't know the world outside their very strict homes, much less their rights,” said Army Staff Sgt. Quitze Garcia, PRT Paktya Civil Affairs specialist and Rule of Law rep. “These classes help young ladies realize they've rights, and neither their religion nor their constitution is what's denying them their rights. “

The 5-day course is taught by Afghan university law professors and is aimed at educating govt officials and teachers. “It's important to give these classes to the multipliers, teachers and upcoming govt officials,” Sgt Garcia said. “They are the future of Afghanistan and they need to know how to improve the quality of life for all Afghans.”

So far, more than 400 students have been through the training, with 14 more classes scheduled in the coming months to cover every district in the prov. The initial 4 courses were held for teachers in the capital city of Gardez. The training was such a success that the PRT and Paktya Dept of Ed. worked to expand the program to outlying districts, like Jaji, and neighboring Chamkani district, both in a historically volatile region along the Pakistan border.

“I was in Gardez and I heard that the PRT successfully completed the Civics training Program,” said the Chamkani rep of education. “Now I'm so happy that they've the same program here in Chamkani.”

Fifty-three females signed up to attend the Chamkani course, but on day one, 60 showed up. In Jaji, 50 women were invited, but 83 reported for the training.
The PRT local national advisor assisting with the training noted that the women were fairly quiet the first day, but by the end were excited and engaged in discussion; many even hurrying home to share their newly acquired knowledge with their parents.

One participant told her parents about the course discussion on domestic violence and arranged marriages. Her father, a tribal elder in the region, was so pleased to hear about the discussion, that he sent his younger daughter to take part in the rest of the course.

The effectiveness of the training is evident in other ways, too. The PRT advisor recently received a threatening phone call, telling him the Taliban doesn’t approve of the Civics Training and asking him to stop. “The Taliban are angry because they know we’re opening people’s minds and giving them knowledge of their constitutional rights,” Sgt Garcia said, “and the Taliban don’t like that.”

The PRT is looking at expanding the program even further, and also using the radio to put out additional info on constitutional and legal topics. Like most of Afghanistan, Paktya prov. has less than a 20% literacy rate, but more than 80% of the population has access to radio.

Especially in Paktya’s hard-to-reach outlying districts, the airwaves have become increasingly important in communicating with the info-starved populace, countering enemy propaganda, and connecting the people to a govt to which they wouldn’t otherwise have access. Sgt Garcia believes strengthening faith in the judicial system is the next important step.

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The women and their daughters will be the first to be killed if the Taliban come back after July 2011.

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