Founding Mothers -- Standard Bearers for Freedom, By Zalmay Khailzad

The inclusion of women into the political, economic, social and educational spheres is among the most potent forces contributing to the transformation of Middle East, Central and South Asia societies.

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, March 9, 2005
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN- In Afghanistan, women are playing a greater role in the political process, taking advantage of new economic opportunities, working with civil society to address problems being faced by women at the local levels, striving to attain higher educational levels, and are improving the quality of health care for themselves and their families.
 
By Zalmay Khailzad, March 9, 2005    
 
The inclusion of women into the political, economic, social and educational spheres is among the most potent forces contributing to the transformation of Middle East, Central and South Asia societies.
 
We saw many Afghan and Iraqi women who risked their lives to vote in the recent historic elections in their countries. 
 
Afghan women are expected to score a significant number of victories in their country's coming parliamentary elections.  Both countries now have laws that guarantee women's parliamentary representation.
 
We stand with these brave women, the  "founding mothers" of the new democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq.  The United States realizes that despite the success of the recent elections, the people of Afghanistan and Iraq will face many challenges in the future and women's participation and empowerment at all levels of society will be key to moving these new democracies forward.
 
President Bush has said, "it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements…in every nation.”  The women of Afghanistan have put those words into action and they have my Nation’s support.
 
Since the fall of Taliban in 2001, the United States, with funding from government and private sources, has implemented more than 200 projects for Afghan women to increase their political participation, build civil society, create economic opportunities, support the education of women and girls, and provide greater access to health care.
 
President Bush and Afghan President Karzai gave added impetus to this effort when they created the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council more than three years ago.  Both Presidents realize that the intellectual capital that women bring to the nation will be a critical part of the effort to re-build a Nation torn by 30 years of war. Since then, the council has been promoting public-private partnerships between U.S. and Afghan institutions and mobilizing private sector resources to help Afghan women.  
 
What the United States is doing for women intensively in Afghanistan, it is doing extensively throughout the Middle East through the Broader Middle East and North Africa and Middle East Partnership initiatives, both with the G-8 and bilaterally.   Both these initiatives recognize the critical role of women in social, economic and political reform. 
 
For example, USAID is supporting the increased presence of women in the government by providing training, supporting a caucus on women issues and increasing opportunities to use media in reaching out to the public.
 
USAID’s economic growth program is providing a level playing field for women to access employment and income opportunities.  Our education programming supports activities ranging from policy level support at the national and provincial level to school improvements at the district level.
 
USAID programs also work intensively to improve the health of Afghan women and their families through interventions designed to overcome problems, such as the low number of female health providers, inadequate diet, and health illiteracy, and by increasing access to quality health services.
 
The American writer Zora Neale Hurston observed, "Once you wake up thought in a person, you can never put it to sleep again."  The elections in Iraq and Afghanistan have awakened for millions in the Middle East the thought that democracy is within their reach, and that women will play a key role in the unfolding of that democracy.
 
In Afghanistan, women are playing a greater role in the political process, taking advantage of new economic opportunities, working with civil society to address problems being faced by women at the local levels, striving to attain higher educational levels, and are improving the quality of health care for themselves and their families.  This is a good thought to hold onto as we celebrate International Women's Day, March 8, 2005.

Last updated: August 28, 2014

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