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Haidari: Education Key to Empowering Afghan Women

Political Counselor M. Ashraf Haidari delivered a speech on "Education Key to Empowering Afghan Women" at the Initiative to Education Afghan Women (IEAW) in Washington, D.C. on March 30, 2009.

Speaking to members of the IEAW Board and Afghan female students, Haidari thanked Ms. Paula Nirschel, the founder and director of IEAW "for her relentless efforts to help empower Afghan women" whom he called "the pillars of Afghanistan." Thanking members of the IEAW Board, he said, "You have generously given your time and energy for furthering this noble cause, one that is truly life-changing for Afghanistan’s deprived girls and women. And it is obvious that without the participation of the sponsoring American Universities and Colleges across this great nation, the Initiative could not be empowering 46 intelligent and visionary Afghan women that will help lead our country towards a brighter future."

Haidari called upon other U.S. institutions of higher learning to support Ms. Nirschel's efforts to empower more of Afghan women to reach their lifetime objectives and to contribute to Afghanistan's reconstruction and development. Recounting the significant achievements made by Afghan women since the fall of the Taliban, Haidari said that they "enjoy the deep respect, support and commitment of President Hamid Karzai to their Constitutional rights and the implementation of those rights through various mechanisms established in the Government so far."

However, Haidari noted that Afghanistan remains a conservative society with the worst social indicators among women, who together with children constitute more than half of the country’s population. "Beyond protective security concerns, the only way to ensure women’s human security and to truly empower them on the long run is through primary and higher education," Haidari said. He noted, "We know from the experience of women in the developed world, of course, here in the United States, where women were not fully enfranchised until they received higher education and became financially independent." He added, "Afghanistan has to follow the same path if our economy has to grow on a sustainable basis, since without half of our population, we could hardly develop on the long run."

Haidari welcomed the renewed commitment of the U.S. Government for helping stabilize Afghanistan both militarily and through increased development assistance. "Afghan women and children are the main focus of increased U.S. assistance to Afghanistan. I do hope that initiatives such as yours will benefit from the new strategy, which President Obama announced last Friday," Haidari said. He appreciated President Obama's firm commitment to protecting the basic human rights of every Afghan woman and child, and noted that "no human right is more fundamental than the right of every Afghan woman to an education inside or outside Afghanistan."

Full Text of the Speech (.PDF)

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