Bitter Roots Tender Shoots

Intro:  Sally Armstrong, journalist, writer, researcher is a member of the Order of Canada—the highest award of citizenship in Canada.  She travelled to Afghanistan during the time of the Taliban rule.  Upon her return, she wrote Veiled Threat: the hidden power of the women of Afghanistan, a compelling book detailing the disintegration of Afghan society due to the professional women who were sent home and the denial of education for girls.  Most recently she has written the following book of which I circulated a review.



Bitter Roots Tender Shoots: The Uncertain Fate of Afghanistan’s Women

Author:  Sally Armstrong

Book Review By Nancy Mereska

            Sally Armstrong moves her readers through a better understanding of the history of Afghanistan with advice to NATO not to pull the troops out until the Taliban are driven back into their caves and a stable government is set up with the will and the power to contain them.  She explains both al Queda and the Taliban feed on fanaticism and “have hijacked their religion for political opportunism.”

            Whereas the ordinary citizen in the Western World (people like you and me) may think the Taliban and al Queda are one and the same, Armstrong clearly defines what each is and how they are linked.  This union certainly does not have a goal of peace and prosperity for mankind.

            The day this book appeared in my mailbox, was the day that several school girls were sprayed in their innocent, beautiful young faces with acid by Taliban rebels.  They were on their way to school.  Sally and I expressed our outrage to one another via email.

            One would think that Sally Armstrong is a sociological mathematician by the way she spells out formulas for what is happening to Afghani women today.  She speaks of Najia who was courageous enough to shed the Burka.  Najia’s formula:  “plunging into new challenges” equals “setting new limits and new heights for Afghan women.” Other formulas that underscore the tenuousness of their lives are exclusion equals fundamentalism and terrorism; inclusion equals understanding and cooperation; and, education equals peace.

            What would we do if our Canadian maternal mortality rate was 1,600 per 10,000, if our under-five child mortality rate was 257 per 1,000?  We would not tolerate it, not one minute!  But in the town of Rukha in Panjshir Province, a single-story stucco building is serving as a test clinic for pregnant women—funded by the World Bank.

            Like Daphne Bramham’s writing about Bountiful, B.C.’s polygamous community and speaking at events on polygamy, Sally Armstrong brings with her the memories of events that must be shared.  If a central theme could be applied to each of these women’s books, it would be a cry for educating the public about these two worlds that are so separate, yet so much the same.

            Sally’s work and writings have spawned such a wonderful movement across Canada of women helping Afghanistan’s women.  Imagine having a pot luck supper and raising enough money to pay the salary of an Afghanistan teacher for one year–$800! 

            The group that has been up and running since Armstrong’s first book Veiled Threat: The Hidden Power of the Women of Afghanistan (2002) is Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan)  headed by Janice Eisenhauer.  Over fifty chapters are scattered across Canada. 

            Education=Peace is the logo of an organization started by a young Canadian girl,  10-year-old Alaina Podmorow, Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan, a group that at the time of writing this book, had raised over $22,000 by organizing bottle drives, etc.  

            Reading Bitter Roots Tender Shoots: The Uncertain Fate of Afghanistan’s Women will bring out the “mother” in any woman.  I kept asking, how can I help?  Though my contribution may be small, the first part will be to ask you to buy Sally’s book; and, the second part has started.  I have spoken to a dear friend in Edmonton about the possibility of organizing a pot luck supper in the spring.

            If you want to contact Janice Eisenhauer to ask how you can help, her email is w4wafghan  @  Both Sally and I will be very happy you did.


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