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U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council Travels to Afghanistan

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky traveled to Afghanistan July 16-20 to convene the ninth formal meeting of the U.S. Afghan Women's Council (USAWC). The Under Secretary co-chairs the Council with Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Afghan Minister of Women's Affairs Dr. Hussn Banu Ghazanfar, and Afghan Minister of Education Mr. Hanif Atmar. Mrs. Shamim Jawad, founder of AYENDA the Afghan Children's Initiative and a member of the US-Afghan Women's Council, accompanied Unde Secretary Dobriansky.

Under Secretary Dobriansky led a delegation of distinguished Americans who are old friends of Afghanistan from the private sector and philanthropies: Barbara Barrett, CEO Triple Creek Ranch; Caroline Firestone, Founder, The New Hudson Foundation; Shamim Jawad, Founder, AYENDA the Afghan Children’s Initiative; Timothy McBride, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, Freddie Mac; Terry Neese, President, Women Impacting Public Policy; and Diana Rowan, Founder, Afghan Women Leaders Connect.

This latest visit to Kabul by the USAWC focused on economic participation through entrepreneurship training and micro credit; education through teacher and literacy training, women’s resource centers, and educational and cultural exchanges; access to healthcare; strengthening civil society groups promoting the welfare of children; and judicial issues relating to legal awareness training for women and the drafting of family laws.

“The trip was a new step in implementing the Council’s efforts to further empower Afghan women. We had a number of constructive meetings where we assessed the progress of current projects, and discussed future plans and upcoming projects. I was very impressed by the progress that has been made since our last trip to Afghanistan,” said Mrs. Shamim Jawad.

The delegation visited the Afghanistan Women’s Business Federation (AWBF), the Aschiana Center, the  American University of Afghanistan and the Turquoise Mountain Foundation and met with students from the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program.

Following the delegation's return to the United States, Under Secretary Dobriansky held a joint press conference with Ambassador Said T. Jawad to discuss the work of the Council and the work currently underway to support women in Afghanistan.

Under Secretary Dobriansky spoke first about the ways that members of the delgation have individually contributed to providing Afghan women with essential services, and then more broadly about the situation of women in the country. "At the Council meeting in Kabul, I assured our Afghan partners that are we are committed to supporting them in their efforts to improve the lives of Afghan women and girls. We know that the challenges are many, but we remain focused on our goals. The mission of the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council is to identify concrete actions it can take and support it can bring to benefit the women of Afghanistan. Over the coming weeks, we will consider some of the very good recommendations that were made during the Council session…The many years of war cheated Afghan men and women of the economic, political and social progress that other countries not in conflict have managed to achieve. The Council wants to help Afghans make up for this lost time," she said.

The Ambassador thanked Under Secretary Dobriansky for her leadership and the First Lady Mrs. Bush for her devotion and personal commitment to Afghanistan. He praised the work of the US-Afghan Women’s Council, but noted that there was much more to be done. “The Afghan Government laid the legal foundation of gender equality and women empowerment. Yet, without further assistance in the form of leadership training, micro-finance and especially education, Afghan women will not fully benefit from such rights. The U.S. and Afghanistan are working together to ensure that Afghan women are informed of their rights and able to better participate in the political, economic and public life of Afghanistan," he said.

The Council is a public-private partnership that was established in 2002 by President George W. Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Its mission is to help empower Afghan women to play a critical role in the reconstruction of their nation. In December 2006, First Lady Laura Bush announced the Council's new partnership with Georgetown University. Over the next 18 months, the Council will integrate into the Georgetown community to establish a permanent home to sustain its critical work over the long-term.



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