September 8th, 2013An article on peacewomen.org listed numerous ways that Karzai has failed as a leader and especially in his mandate to improve the lives of his countrywomen. But the article only highlights Karzai's more recent failures to support women. A complete accounting would require volumes. It is common these days to lambast Karzai for his back-peddling on women’s issues. Afghan women have sadly come to realize that they can't rely on him nor his government to stand up for them. Fortunately, many Afghan women are standing up for themselves. Naheed Farid, the 29 year-old MP who won the most votes of all female candidates says, "I could not believe that I was able to overcome the conservative ideology of my society and receive the religious votes. I was welcomed by my generation and many youth voted for me." () There are many progressive Afghans (men and women) working for women's rights. They form a counterbalance to the increasing fundamentalism in the government. One organization is Afghanistan 1400, a mixed-gender group dedicated to "mobilizing and creating a political platform for the new generation of Afghanistan. It will empower the new generation to partake in Afghanistan’s political, social, and economic development." Young Women for Change is another of many such groups, as is the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. We rank and file outsiders can have little influence over Karzai. From everything I've read and the Afghans I've talked with, he is a weak man with little power who sides with whichever way he senses that the wind is blowing. Rather than wringing our hands over his failures to protect women, we need to support the Afghans who are working to turn the tide of fundamentalism. We can connect with and encourage them online, but it is also vital that we support their efforts monetarily. In addition to the organizations mentioned above, education with a human rights component has the best long term chance to transform the society. With 42% of the country's population under the age of 14, there is great potential for the future reform of misogynistic traditions. The Afghan Institute of learning is one organization making a lot of difference in rural areas and Ayni is educating thousands in the Mazar-e Sharif area of Northern Afghanistan. RAWA works throughout the country.