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Embroidery of Colored Threads

Remarks at the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council

Georgetown University

Washington, DC


Madam First Lady Laura Bush,
The Honorable Secretary Chao,
The Honorable Secretary Dobriansky,
President DeGioia,
Dean Mcullof,
Distinguished Members of the US-Afghan Women’s Council,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honored to share the stage with the First Lady of the United States of America.
Please allow me to take this opportunity to convey the gratitude of the Afghan people for her support and compassion for education, children and women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Madame First Lady, you have been a strong advocate for the rights of Afghan women, even before the tragic events of September 11th. We will not forget when you devoted your historic speech of 2001 to Afghan women. For the first time the wife of a US President delivered the President’s weekly radio address. You chose to speak out on behalf of Afghan women suffering under the Taliban.

In your first historic visit to Afghanistan you sat down with Afghan girls in their newly-built dormitories and chatted with the street children of Kabul. In your recent visit, you met with our First Lady, Dr. Zeinat Karzai, to discuss children and education in Afghanistan, while President Karzai, President Bush and the leadership of our new parliament were talking about US-Afghan strategic partnership.

The US- Afghan partnership is based on our shared vision of building a pluralistic and civil society in a constitutional state that guarantees the safety, security and civil liberties of all men, women and children.

We have come a long way, but we are not out of the woods. Under the gender apartheid of terrorists and the Taliban, women were deprived of all basic human rights. They were forbidden from wearing bright colors and children were denied the traditional and innocent joy of flying a kite. Today, Afghans enjoy more political, economic, and social rights than at any time in the history of our country. Among all the achievements, nothing is more beautiful than the sight of Afghan school girls in their black and white uniforms, attending class under a tree in a small village.

We have established all key institutions of civil society and democratic governance, including a constitutional design, parliament, human rights commission, electoral system, national army, police force, and political parties, as well as mechanisms for political reintegration, women’s empowerment, and disarmament of militias.

President Karzai is working to further enhance the capacity of these young institutions to deliver better services and provide more protection to Afghan citizens. Despite these accomplishments, the security of all our citizens is not yet fully safeguarded, and terrorism is still a threat to my country. Our achievements are numerous; but our challenges are serious.
Afghans have enthusiastically participated in the political process and the presidential and parliamentary elections. Women constitute 27% of the members of our new dynamic parliament. These brave women are risking their lives. Last month, terrorists killed a teacher and social activist, Safia Ama Jan, in Kandahar. Women are equally active in economic life. Over 70,000 women have started small and midsize businesses with the help of micro-credit loans. We have experienced double digit economic growth in the past four years.

School enrollment has increased 600% comparing to 2001. 5.4 million children, 36 percent of whom are girls, are going to school. Over 50 million textbooks are published, and 3200 schools are built. However, most class rooms are still in a tent or under a tree.

The basic health care coverage is increased from 7% under the Taliban to 80%. With your assistance, we have built 500 clinics, serving 7.4 million people. However, 18,000 women die every year due to complications related to pregnancy. We are training hundreds of community health workers and midwives. A generation of boys and girls were deprived of their joyful childhood. More than one million children are suffering from malnutrition and post trauma syndromes. We are very grateful to the First Lady for her support of Ayenda, the Afghan children initiative, headed by my wife Shamim Jawad, under the umbrella of the US-Afghan Women’s Council.

The support of US-Afghan Women’s Council, under the leadership of the First Lady has been crucial for education and health care in my country. I would like to thank Secretary Dobriansky for her personal commitment and love for Afghan women and children. We are here to celebrate the accomplishments of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council and to pay tribute to its magnificent members.

I am deeply humbled by the generous support of President and Mrs. DeGioia, Stewart McLauren, and Georgetown University. The University has been our key partner in rebuilding Afghanistan. The new partnership of Georgetown with the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council will further institutionalize the Council at Georgetown and open a new chapter of our partnership, inaugurated by President Karzai’s historic visit to Georgetown in January 2002, and reinforced by his September 2006 visit. We look forward to further benefit from, and working with, your distinguished faculty, especially Dr. Phyllis Magrab, at your Center for Child and Family Development, on US Afghan Women’s Council projects.

My embassy is grateful to Georgetown for building bridges between our two nations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Two weeks ego, I attended a graduation ceremony for 15 Afghan businesswomen at Thunderbird University in Arizona. This magnificent group of smart women entrepreneurs included the owner of a construction company, a fashion designer, a professional basketball couch, a fitness center owner, and a number of manufacturers. One former graduate, who has built a business of making hand made embroideries and employs over 500 women in Kandahar once said and I quote: “We Afghan women have taken it upon ourselves to stitch a future of peace for our children. Embroidery is the skill we have, and love and patience is what we can give to our families and our country.”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Like a precious Afghan embroidery, many hands and different colored threads are working together to restore the fabric of our society and recreate a vivid and lasting image. The First Lady of the United States of America, prominent members of the US-Afghan Women’s Council, and the leadership and students of Georgetown University are joining hands with young girls of a small remote village in Kandahar and Bamyan, to build a better future for Afghans, for women and for humanity. This is a great and noble cause. With partners and friends like you we will succeed.

Thank you.

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