USAID Reaffirms Commitment To Women on International Women's Day
Rebuilding Hope is aptly named, for there is much reason to celebrate the cause of women.
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, March 8, 2005
From Andrew S. Natsios, USAID Administrator
Washington, DC -- Today, I am proud to join my colleagues, partners and good friends in the international community to celebrate the brave, strong and compassionate spirit of women on this International Women's Day. As I reflect upon the last year, I bear witness to the contributions women have made to the economic, political and social lives of their nations, communities and families, as well as the next generation. Women are key actors in effective development and more than 800 million women are economically active worldwide - in agriculture, small and micro-enterprise and, increasingly, in the export of processing industries that drive globalization.
In particular, I am profoundly moved by the strides women have taken in recent months in Aghanistan, Iraq and the nations of South Asia. On this day, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is unveiling Rebuilding Hope, a compelling photographic exhibit that tells the story of how USAID helps women and families rise to the challenge of starting their lives over in the wake of conflicts and natural disasters. The pictures and stories illustrate USAID's ability to respond quickly and meet emergency food, shelter and medical needs. And the exhibit also conveys USAID's long-term commitment to rebuilding societies, creating jobs, and educating children to become contributing members of their communities.
Rebuilding Hope is aptly named, for there is much reason to celebrate the cause of women. Under the Taliban, Afghan women were shunned from public life, often prohibited from working outside the home, and punished for showing their faces. Virtually no education system existed, with many schools converted to training for the Taliban. With U.S. assistance, roughly 5 million students once barred from school have now returned to their classes. Forty percent are female. This month, female students are entering the newly-rehabilitated National Women's Dormitory in Kabul. The dorm enables girls from rural areas to attend one of four institutions of higher learning in Kabul, including the medical school, the Afghan Education University, and the Polytechnic Institute and Kabul University. And just last week, Afghan President Hamid Karzai appointed the first female governor of the central province of Bamiyan.
In January, the world witnessed a long-awaited milestone as Iraq held its first democratic elections in half a century. With hopeful, determined steps, Iraqi women walked to the polls, knowing their vote was a voice for women in political participation. In Iraq, USAID is consulting with women leaders to ensure they have the opportunity to contribute to reconstruction programs, and to participate in the country's social, political and economic life with full legal and human rights. Already with USAID's support, the Governing Council has adopted equal rights legislation, and through the agency's Local Governance Program, women are now serving on advisory councils at the neighborhood and district level in Baghdad, Babil, Najaf, Qadisiyah and Wasit.
And let us also remember the women whose lives were touched so tragically by the recent Indian Ocean earthquake and resulting tsunamis. Families, homes, livelihoods and entire communities were washed away. Yet I saw with my own eyes how many women were putting their lives back together, with the compassionate support of the American people.
The United States has long recognized the essential role women play in the development of their countries. Today, we are honored to observe their achievements, and we reaffirm our commitment to support women's full participation in all sectors of society.