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Kabul Conference, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Congress Emphasize Afghan Women’s Rights

July, 2010 could rightly be remembered as the month Afghan Women’s Rights finally came to fruition. 

Delegates to the Kabul Conference, the latest in a series of Donor Conferences on the subject of Afghanistan, stressed the “centrality of women’s rights, including political, economic, and social equality, to the future of Afghanistan”. Sec. Clinton stated this in no uncertain terms in her address to the Conference: “"I speak from experience when I say that the work of Afghan women and civil society groups will be essential to this country's success. If these groups are fully empowered to help build a just and lasting peace, they will help do so. If they are silenced and pushed to the margins of Afghan society, the prospects for peace and justice will be subverted," she said.

The US Congress has initiated a more than one-year study on the subject of the effectiveness of US funding on the well-being of Afghan women and girls, directing:

“the Secretary of State, in consultation with the USAID Administrator, to submit  a report, no later than September 30, 2011, detailing the uses of funds….to improve the status of Afghan women and girls, including to prevent  discrimination and violence against women and girls and to assist the victims; provide economic and leadership opportunities; increase participation of women in the political progress at the national, provincial and sub-provincial levels and in efforts to improve security; and other programs designed specifically to benefit women and girls; and the results achieved.”

Even without these latest encouragements and mandates from Afghanistan’s partners, women have continued to make strides as programs already in place have continued to support women. A case in point is that the number of Afghan women candidates for the September 18th parliamentary elections has risen 22 percent over five years ago, according to a recent United Nations Security Council report. The number of women running for Parliament increased to 400 out of 2,635 candidates. That compares with 328 women out of 2,707 candidates in the 2005 elections, the UN said.

"This number ensures that, at a minimum, women candidates will fill all of the 68 allocated seats and are likely to get additional ones," the UN said in the study. There are 249 seats in the Afghan National Assembly's Wolesi Jirga or House of People, according to the parliament's website.


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