After years of helping hundreds of Afghan women and girls through what supporters called her "one-woman NGO," Rosemary Stasek died suddenly Sept. 24 in Kabul of heart failure. The daughter of a garment worker mother and coal miner father, Stasek was the first in her family to go to college, at Cornell. After years of pro-choice activism and serving as a mayor in California, she moved to Afghanistan after 9/11 and founded A Little Help. It helped women and girls through an array of programs, from emergency obstetric training to preserves lessons and knitting classes for the blind to collecting toys and other donations for kids to providing school supplies for girls in prison – often for crimes committed by male relatives.
She was what one admirer called "a master of the workaround." When the Taliban burned down a school for girls in northern Afghanistan and a warlord refused to rebuild, Stasek erected tents and raised money for supplies so the girls could continue studying. She was, by all accounts, fearless. When she couldn't get Internet service in Kabul, she tracked down the previous tenant who hadn't paid the phone bill – a member of the Taliban. When he refused to pay, the story goes, she grabbed his AK-47 and pointed it at him.
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"Pay the fucking bill or I'll shoot you," she told him. She got her Internet.
From a tribute to Stasek and her work in Kabul, where drama, corruption, confusion
and unending challenge reign: "In this place and time of uncertainty,
a flower blossomed. That flower was our friend Rosemary."