This holiday season, as we pause and give thanks, I am humbled by the determination and grit I've seen in poor communities around the world as people work to achieve things so many of us take for granted.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Afghanistan. In that country's struggle to chart its future, even schools - which should be havens for the development of young minds - are being targeted by criminals. Insurgents know that functioning schools are essential to a peaceful and prosperous society, and that's not part of their plan.
Not surprisingly, in Afghanistan and many other poor countries impacted by conflict, violence disproportionately affects girls. A report recently released by CARE and the Afghan Ministry of Education finds that while girls' schools make up 20 percent of schools in Afghanistan, they are targets of violence 40 percent of the time.
Even if extremists can't quote U.N. statistics about the correlation between girls' education and improved health, lower fertility rates and increased household income, they know that educated girls can grow up to lead their families and communities out poverty. Educated girls can build the kind of societies where lawlessness and violence have no place.
CARE's report finds that engaging communities in education and giving them ownership over schools creates environments where education - even girls' education - is valued. This community involvement also reduces the risk of attacks and violence.
Progress is being made in Afghanistan without the use of troops and warfare - and CARE is at the forefront, driving these positive steps forward. I encourage you to get involved with groups like CARE to help create lasting change around the world. Sign up for the CARE Action Network (www.can.care.org) today and use your voice to support women and girls worldwide.
Just imagine the gratitude of women and girls everywhere who are safe in school, in their homes, on the way to work and wherever their aspirations take them.
Michael Franti, CARE Ambassador