New Zealanders in Afghanisan
The New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team’s main role in Afghanistan is to strengthen security and stability, and support the development of self-sustainable provincial and district government. It does this through making its presence felt by patrolling the surrounding Bamyan area, and assisting security sector reform. It is strengthening the influence of the Government of Afghanistan by helping rebuild institutions, monitoring disarmament, and reducing the causes of instability and insecurity.
International Women’s Day
March, for the women of Afghanistan, represented Women’s Suffrage Month during which they celebrated International Women’s Day. Six female members from the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team attended the local celebrations with over 1000 other participants. Meetings were also held throughout the country with the theme being what woman are doing to make the world a better place, and how the women of Afghanistan can move forward in making their country a better one for themselves and others.
In Bagram, women of the American and Coalition Forces were invited to attend and speak at a Woman’s Suffrage / International Womans Day meeting in a village outside of Bagram Air Field. Corporal Angela Cossey, a NZ Army Administrator, spoke on behalf of the NZ NSE addressing a group of around 300 Afghani women. Most represented a cross section of society ranging from University lecturers, doctors and housewives. In one case, both wives of one man were present.
Cpl Cossey’s speech:
My name is Angela Cossey and I am a Corporal in the New Zealand Army. I am employed as an Administrator with the NZ National Support Element in Bagram. I am 32 years old, married with two young children. This is my first deployment with the New Zealand Army and it is my pleasure and privilege to have this opportunity to speak today in honour of International Women’s Day.
Women in New Zealand are fortunate to live in a community of equal opportunity, readily available health services including women’s clinics, education, and a right to vote. Education is compulsory for all children from the age of 6 and continuing adult education is encouraged and supported.
New Zealand was the first country in the world to allow women to vote - a hard- fought battle by courageous women, which began in the late 1800’s.
The following was said by Special Presidential Envoy and Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad in a recent radio address:
Afghan people have suffered over the past 2 and half decades, and women especially have endured great hardship. Afghan women comprise more than half of the countries population. They are the mothers of the next generation. Rebuilding this nation will not succeed without them.
Life in New Zealand hasn’t always been fair and equal for women. It took many courageous women in the past who were also supported by men to stand up and demand to be heard on such issues as physical abuse, health, education and equal employment opportunities.
Women in New Zealand are fully supported in every arena. We have sporting champions who represent New Zealand in their chosen sport and some of these women are world champions. We have female doctors, surgeons, teachers, and lawyers. Women who are pilots, drivers, builders, engineers and architects.
The New Zealand Defence Force is very supportive of women. As an employer it is leading the way in equality for women and has recently allowed women into combat trades. We have strong leaders who set good examples for women in the service.
It takes an inner strength, actions and courage to stand up and make a difference and work towards change. In the faces I see today, I see that strength and that spirit to make a difference. I would encourage you as women of Afghanistan to seek the changes you deserve. To seek education for your daughters, for your sons, for yourselves, for your future.
To work towards better health services so that you can reduce the tragedies that occur to women and infants in childbirth.
I could only hope to understand the hardships you’ve endured and as a woman, and a mother, my wish is that one day you, too, will enjoy the same rights and opportunities that I enjoy in my home country of New Zealand.
I am honoured to be a guest of the Afghanistan people, and witness to this historic period of working together for peace and prosperity.
Thank you again for allowing me to speak today. I will always hold the people of Afghanistan in my heart and remember you always.
On 26th March, Corporal Cossey again spoke at Bagram at a meeting marking International Women’s Day. She was awarded a certificate and flag display for her support, professionalism and dedication in making the Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day a success.
SNO meets Bamyan Governor
The Senior National Officer of the NZ PRT, Group Captain John Duxfield, meet recently with the newly appointed governor of the Bamyan province, Habiba Sorabi. Governor Sorabi is the first female governor to have been appointed within Afghanistan. She said the biggest problem facing the province was poverty. “The desire of the people for change is very high. The NZPRT plays a crucial role in helping to achieve those desires.”
Group Captain Duxfield told her the aim of the PRT was to support the practices of good governance, and that he believed this could be achieved through assisting with the provision of security and stability throughout the province, and through involvement in facilitating various engineering projects, and health and educational programmes.
Both Group Captain Duxfield and Governor Sorabi recognised that the continued close relationship between the NZPRT and provincial government was crucial to achieving positive change.
“New Year” celebrated
Members of the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team in the Bamyan Province of Afghanistan celebrated two “New Years Eves” this year. The 21st March, 2005 marked the beginning of 1384 for the Afghani people. Lieutenant James Webb, NZ PRT platoon commander, spent this memorable day amongst the local people.
He said there was a “ real feeling of prosperity and hope as things begin to move forward; new shops, new educational possibilities and continued development of Bamyan services and infrastructure.”
For many though, the day was celebrated by a pilgrimage to Mazar-E-Sharif. For 30 members of the NZ PRT security platoon, assisted permanently by local police, the evening was celebrated with a traditional meal within the barrack lines. This meal was attended by the Senior National Officer, Group Captain John Duxfield, members of the NZ PRT, and local police officials. Lieutenant Simon Ainsworth, NZ PRT nursing officer, said the occasion was very festive, with singing and laughter, yet “marred with sadness for those who were unable to spend the time with their families’.
Celebrations concluded as four NZ PRT members attended a function, hosted by the Bamyan Governor, at the local community centre. This included music and singing to which the NZ PRT contributed an impromptu rendition of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”. The involvement by NZ PRT members in local New Year celebrations reinforces the strong relationship built between the coalition forces and local people.
Defence Minister visits
Defence Minister Mark Burton, renowned in Parliament for his musical abilities, delighted member of the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan recently with an impromptu guitar performance.
The performance came during an official visit to the PRT in Bamyan, Afghanistan earlier this month. Mr Burton praised the work the PRT were doing in helping rebuild Afghanistan. His visit was something of a highlight for New Zealand Army medic Kelly Wan, who received her promotion to corporal from the Minister. “It was completely unexpected, and a real honour, “ she said later.
Mr Burton attended a number of activities including a ‘Traditional Afghan Night’ hosted by the PRT. This saw members wearing traditional Afghan dress and eating local food with cushion seating. The evening included local music, as well as Mr Burton’s guitar performance.
Further activities during the Minister’s visit included discussions with key organizations, such as the Bamyan University, to which NZ has provided support; a demonstration of the capabilities of the patrol teams; and a brief tour of local historical attractions.
This page was last reviewed 29 September, 2011 and is current.