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Women in Afghanistan are
critical to progress and stability in their war-torn country. So said U.S.
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's issues Melanne Verveer. We know, said
Ms. Verveer, that no country can prosper if half its people are left behind. And
as President Barack Obama said in his Cairo speech, we recognize that our
daughters can contribute as much to society as our sons.
The truth is, said Ambassador Verveer, that countries that repress women also
tend to be backward economically, and are more likely to be failed states.
That's why United States is intensifying its efforts to help Afghan women
participate more fully in society. One example of this is a new twenty-seven
million dollar U.S. funded program of small, flexible, rapid response grants
targeted to empower Afghan women-led non-governmental organizations at the
local level. Programs range from economic development, literacy training,
skills training, and healthcare.
Political participation is critical to empowering Afghan women. Currently,
Afghanistan is in the midst of an election campaign for both president and
provincial councils. There are two women running for president and more than
one-hundred running for council seats. The U.S. has called for a campaign that
is credible, inclusive, and secure, where men and women candidates can
participate with no restrictions on their freedom of movement and be assured of
An ongoing concern for Afghan women is security. Violence against women and
girls, said Ambassador Verveer, is endemic and much remains to be done,
including access to institutions of justice, civic education, and prosecution
of crimes. More girls are in school, but the Taliban have eroded some of the
progress. Last year alone, they burned or shut down more than seven-hundred
schools, and thousands of girls are now without access to formal education.
As Ambassador Verveer made clear, Progress in Afghanistan must be measured not
just in military terms, but also in terms of social, political, and economic
participation of women in rebuilding Afghanistan and in the safeguarding of
their human rights.