On December 20, the U.S. Embassy Kabul's Public Affairs Section completed a 10-day outreach and engagement program with prominent Muslim-American businesswoman and magazine owner, Ms. Tayyibah Taylor, on the theme of entrepreneurship. During this period, the program reached nearly 500 Afghan men and women -- in face-to-face engagements with audiences that ranged from uneducated merchants and artisans, university students and emerging entrepreneurs, to sophisticated, urban businesswomen, civil society organizations, community leaders, and provincial council members.
Ms. Taylor traveled to four provinces in support of this program: Kabul; Kapisa in the north; Nangarhar in the east; and Kandahar in the south. Ms. Taylor's program underscores the State Department's objectives of expanding women's economic empowerment, particularly in South Central Asia, where Ambassador Melanne Verveer's Women's Economic Symposium (held this past summer in Bishkek), outlined goals and strategies for creating stronger networks of cooperation and engagement between women of those countries.
Developing outreach programs like Ms Taylor's means multiplying the travel and security logistics -- not to mention the adventure factor -- by 10. In addition to working with Kabul-based partner organizations and contacts to develop a program, it was also necessary to reach out to colleagues spread out throughout the five regional commands (Central, West, East, South and Southwest). And those officers have their own concerns that include coordinating travel to off-base venues in U.S. military-operated mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAP). Once a schedule is in place, there's another layer of logistics that requires tackling: transportation -- especially when a program involves travel to the provinces via fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter (as was the case during Ms. Taylor's program).
When all was said and done, the program traveled approximately 1484 km (922 miles) in Afghanistan, accomplishing the U.S. Mission's objectives of strengthening people-to-people ties. Though the primary theme of her program was entrepreneurship and economic empowerment, Ms. Taylor's experiences living as a Muslim in the United States was equally intriguing to her Afghan audiences. Our local partners and contacts were extremely pleased with the program. As for Ms. Taylor, she truly enjoyed what she characterized as a "wonderful experience and adventure." Emphasis on adventure!