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Pakistani Women Moving Beyond Traditional Roles

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PAKISTAN WOMEN
Getty File

JALOZAI, PAKISTAN -- A visit to the Jalozai camp, originally established in 1980 for Afghans fleeing the Soviet invasion, gives an idea of how the fighting between the Pakistani Army and militants has affected families in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

In 2008, all the Afghan refugees left. Their place was taken by about 100,000 Pakistanis known as the "internally displaced" of their country. Children, women and men arrive with what they can carry, then spend weeks, months, even years in tents.

In this part of Pakistan, the women, almost all Pashtun, traditionally have no other role beyond marrying and producing children at a young age, then taking care of those families.

For some women, though, the camp in recent months has offered new opportunity and a change in perspective. A few hundred of them attend one of the five community centers for women established since last June. They learn to read, write, count, sew or knit. The centers, managed by the Center for Excellence and Rural Development, a partner of the U.N. refugee agency, also serve as venues where they can freely air their problems and hopes.

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