On the event marking the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, the United States today reaffirmed commitment to the well-being and continued progress of the women of Afghanistan.
On her remarks the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council luncheon, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said women of Afghanistan, like the women anywhere, are critical to their nation’s future.
“They deserve to have their human rights protected regardless of place, religion, culture, or any other circumstance, and they need and deserve our support.” -Ms. Clinton
At the luncheon meeting, Ms. Clinton highlighted the remarkable gains of the past decade by the Government of Afghanistan and the Council in empowering women.
In 2001, life expectancy for women in Afghanistan was just 44 years of age and now it is 62 years, Ms. Clinton reported.
She recalls ten years ago, no girls went to school and now, 3 million do.
Girls enrolment now comprises nearly 40 percent of all primary school enrollments.
Nearly 120,000 Afghan girls have graduated from high school, 15,000 are enrolled in universities, and nearly 500 women are on university faculties, Ms. Clinton underlined.
In addition, maternal mortality, infant mortality, under-five mortality rates have all declined significantly.
She adds that more Afghan children are living past their fifth birthday today than at any time in their recent past.
“Now, these statistics represent hundreds of thousands of individual success stories and reflect the work of courageous and determined women across the country.” -Ms. Clinton
She stresses that Afghan women helped achieve a constitution that enshrines women’s rights.
Afghan women now hold office at the national, provincial, and local levels.
They serve on the High Peace Council and in provincial peace councils as well.
Afghan women now are opening and running businesses of all kinds and helping to build an effective and vibrant civil society as well.
In ways that often go unnoticed and certainly uncelebrated, the women of Afghanistan are hard at work each and every day solving Afghanistan’s problems and serving her people, she pointed out.
She cites that for many Afghan women, the help they have received from the council has made all the difference.
The Council has helped in areas of literacy education, support for women entrepreneurs, basic health services, job training for women judges and diplomats.
The Council and the projects it has given risen has given rise to have provided concrete and effective support, Ms. Clinton said.
“So this progress is worth cheering, but it’s also worth protecting.” -Ms. Clinton
Ms. Clinton stresses that the Council has entered into the period of transition, and it’s absolutely critical it should protect these gains and expand on them.
“The women of Afghanistan are a valuable and irreplaceable resource, and their rights must be protected, and their opportunities for them to contribute must be preserved.” -Ms. Clinton
The United States goal is to get Afghans talking with other Afghans about the future.
Ms. Clinton emphasizes that a reconciliation dialogue must include women as well as ethnic minorities and civil society.
One of US redlines is that insurgents who want to reconcile in the end must commit to abide by Afghanistan’s constitution and the rights enshrined in it, most particularly women’s rights, Ms. Clinton added.
She says there are always going to be those, not only in Afghanistan, who want to roll back progress for women and impose second-class citizenship on women, but the Afghan constitution is clear, and the Afghan Government has clearly affirmed it as the law of the land.
“We will not waver on this point. Any peace that is attempted to be made by excluding more than half the population is no peace at all. It is a figment that will not last.” -Ms. Clinton
She underlines that even as the U.S. role in Afghanistan changes during the next few years of transition, the United States will continue to stand with and work closely with Afghan women.
The luncheon meeting was also attended by Laura Bush who did so much to elevate and strengthen the council. She became a passionate advocate for the rights and roles of women in Afghanistan, and she remains one of the strongest advocates today.
U.S. Afghan Women’s Council was created in 2002. The Georgetown University has supported it, offering resources to help Afghanistan gain social and economic stability through one of the country’s chief assets: its women.
The focus of the U.S. Afghan Women’s Council has been to empower Afghan women through educational opportunities, skills training, improving political and legal participation, and access to medical care. Education and health care initiatives sponsored by the council have brought teachers and children into Afghan schools and health workers into communities. The council was established by President Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in January 2002 to promote private-sector and government involvement in rehabilitating women and families scarred by years of war, widowhood and oppression by the Taliban.
The U.S. Afghan Women’s Council supports programs ranging from small businesses and microcredit to teacher training in American universities. An example of entrepreneurship is Arzu Inc., which trains women in the traditional art of carpet weaving to generate income for their families. Workers are compensated at more than the prevailing rate and given health care.