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News and Views

First Lady Hosts Teleconference on Afghan Women

First Lady Laura Bush hosted a video teleconference and reception to discuss the state of Afghanistan's women on December 18, where she was joined members of the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council and senior officials of the Afghan and U.S. governments including Foreign Minister Dr. Rangin D. Spanta, Minister of Women's Affairs Hasan Bano Ghazanfar, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, Ambassador Said T. Jawad and Ambassador William Wood. Together they highlighted the advances and identified the remaining challenges for women in Afghanistan.

In her opening remarks, First Lady Bush focused on the importance of public-private partnerships and the work of the council in helping create opportunities for the women of Afghanistan. "The Council is a very good example of the way both the private sector and the public sector can work together to try to help the people of Afghanistan meet the challenges, and especially the women of Afghanistan to meet the challenges that face them," she stated.

Ambassador Jawad thanked President George W. Bush and the First Lady for their consistent focus on Afghan women, saying, "I really would like to emphasize that every time that I meet with Afghan women, they would like me to convey that gratitude to you, and we are equally grateful to President Bush for giving us the gifts of freedom, and more importantly what he calls also the non-negotiable value of human dignity. In his last trip to Afghanistan, he did a wonderful job of conveying your warm love to the Afghan women, too. And we're very grateful for that."

Various members of the council spoke about their projects and initiatives for Afghan women, including Kellie Kreiser of Thunderbird University (Project Artemis), Terry Neese of the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women (Peace Through Business) and John Rogers of Goldman Sachs (10,000 Women Program).

After the video teleconference, the First Lady was joined by Under Secretary Dobriansky, Ambassador Jawad, Acting Deputy Administrator of USAID Jim Kunder and Georgetown University President John DeGioia for a press availability. In response to a question about the impact of security conditions on the work of the council and its partners, Ambassador Jawad highlighted the determination of Afghan women to gain an education, start business and participate in politics.

"We have heard from women who have established businesses in countless provinces in Afghanistan, such as Helmand, in the south, or Nangarhar in the east. So, yes, there are security challenges, but the Afghan women are extremely determined to improve their life, and grateful for the opportunities being presented to them," he said.

At a reception after the teleconference and press availibility, President George W. Bush called the empowerment of Afghanistan's women "a noble cause that I agree is in our nation's national security interests and our moral interests." In response, Ambassador Jawad expressed his appreciation for President Bush's and the First Lady's focus on Afghanistan.

"I just want to say how grateful we are to President Bush for giving us the gift of freedom, and for Mrs. Bush to work on making this freedom sustainable by providing Afghan women with education and economic empowerment. We are very fortunate to have a friend like President Bush and Mrs. Bush. And your contribution will have a lasting impact on the lives of millions of women in Afghanistan who will now have the right to have a chance for a decent life," he stated.

The U.S.-Afghan Women's Council was created in 2002 by President Bush and President Hamid Karzai. Since its creation it has directed over $120 million from public and private sources to initiatives to benefit Afghan women in the areas of education, health, micro-finance and job training. The council will soon move to its permanent home at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Related News: Embassy Hosts Dinner for U.S.-Afghan Women's Council

                      Video Teleconference by Mrs. Bush with Afghan Entrepreneurs

                      Press Availability by Mrs. Bush after Video Teleconference

                      Reception in Honor of the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council

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