In Afghanistan

It’s easy to feel downhearted about Afghanistan. That’s why reading about some of the changes there since 2001 can place our feelings in better perspective. In 2001 no girls attended school and only a million boys did. In 2012 there were 7.8 million pupils including 2.9 million girls. To be fair some schools are tents or operate in the open and there aren’t enough teachers, yet a movement seems underway and 36% of girls are said to be enrolled, a feat given the resistance and the obstacles. The status of women has been ameliorated. More than a quarter of parliament and government employees are women including some in the police and the army. Although violence against women is still a big problem, British officers are helping to set up a military academy that will include the training of 100 female army officers per year. Other signs are that in a country of 31.3 million, in 2012 there were 18 million mobile phones and life expectancy has risen a little from 56 to 60 years old. To note also is an important improvement in access to safe drinking water, which has gone from 4.8% in 2001 to 60.6% in 2011. Sanitation too has improved, 37% now have access to some type of toilets. Despite the eradication of polio being a persistent problem, the number of cases is declining, 37 in 2012 to 14 in 2013. Although opium was still the country’s main export, there are still large undeveloped resources of minerals and natural gas. When added together, one can’t help the sense that as the movement towards education and women’s participation grows—underground in need be—there is hope.