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Posted 7/15/2016

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By Paul Bruton

If you took a moment to ponder global security, it probably would not cross your mind that an interior designer in downtown Sacramento could be playing a role in stabilizing Afghanistan.

But that is exactly what’s happening. In order to help battle insurgency and keep peace in Afghanistan, Afghan women are currently being recruited for duties in the Afghan National Army, Police and Air Force. Female recruits are essential because religious and cultural constraints prevent men from entering women’s sections of shared buildings – such as mosques, for instance – and buildings where only women reside.

However, there is a bit of a hitch. Those same constraints mean prospective female recruits cannot begin to train for these jobs and duties until they have their own separate facilities in which to reside and train.

That’s where U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District’s Shaista Khan comes into the picture.

Khan is part of a project delivery team tasked with designing training facilities and barracks that will house women entering the Afghan security forces in the cities of Kabul and Herat. These facilities include dorm rooms, classrooms, conference rooms, medical clinics, fitness centers, child care facilities, libraries, and dining facilities, as well as offices for faculty and staff.

Her job with Sacramento District includes developing comprehensive interior design packages for various projects, incorporating the most current technology as it relates to design, furniture, equipment and construction techniques.

During six-plus years with the Corps, Khan has already developed designs for the U.S. Air Force, Army, Veterans Administration, Defense Logistics Agency, the Forrest Service, and some buildings for the Lake Isabella Dam Safety Modification project. Other interior design assignments include hangars, fire stations, warehouses, barracks, maintenance facilities, administrative offices and any other facility a base or an installation might need.

Originally from Pakistan, Khan said she is happy to get to work on projects that play a part in strengthening Afghanistan.

“As a woman, it’s great to work on women-participation projects like these – for the advancement and betterment of women in this part of the world,” said Khan. “We are promoting a new generation of women in Afghanistan.”

In January, the Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan asked the Corps’ Kansas City District to lead the effort in building these facilities for women in Afghanistan. From there, the Seattle and Sacramento Districts were brought in to provide support for these projects. 

Khan said she enjoys the challenge of working on the design of these facilities, but that there is also a greater reward for her in the project beyond successfully accomplishing her job.

“It makes me happy to work on gender integration projects like these meant to strengthen Afghanistan and help bring education, equality, and female empowerment in general to an area where this is much needed,” said Khan.