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WASHINGTON, D.C. - First Lady Laura Bush attended a dinner reception to benefit AYENDA, the Afghan Children Initiative, at the Embassy of Afghanistan on March 16, 2006. AYENDA, or “Future,” is a program of the US-Afghan Women's Council aimed at promoting the welfare, education, and health of Afghan children. The First Lady is a member of the Council, which President George Bush and President Karzai founded in January 2002. Mrs. Bush has visited Afghanistan twice to highlight the US commitment to helping Afghan women and children, and is a strong supporter of the Afghan Children Initiative.

Commenting on AYENDA, First Lady Bush stated: “Afghanistan's future depends on literate, educated, and healthy children. This terrific initiative that we're all here to support tonight will make a difference. Through this program, we can all have a direct impact on Afghan children and their families. Each of us can give them the opportunities to do things that were once thought impossible dreams.”

The event also featured Dr. Khaled Hosseini, author of the international bestseller The Kite Runner, as a guest of honor. Dr. Hosseini spoke about the plight of Afghan children to help raise funds for educational programs in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province—home to the giant Buddha statutes destroyed by the Taliban in 2000—where poverty is affecting children’s access to education. “The Kite Runner is a book of children, of lost innocence. There are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but little childhood,” noted Dr. Hosseini. He said that with democratic elections and efforts to rebuild the country, “there is reason to be optimistic” about the future of Afghan children.

“Afghans today 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 and promising than the sight of Afghan girls in their black and white uniforms, attending class under a tree in a small village,” Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad told a distinguished audience including Secretary of Defense and Mrs. Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General and Mrs. Peter Pace.

The Ambassador’s wife, Mrs. Shamim Jawad who initiated AYENDA and co-chairs it, thanked the First Lady for her sincere devotion to helping the children of Afghanistan. “More than one third of Afghanistan’s population is children. They have been the primary victim of abject poverty, which engulfs our nation after decades of war and destruction. We have more than two million orphans alone. Many Afghan children, especially girls, still lack access to education,” Mrs. Jawad remarked. “I strongly believe that with the generous and compassionate support of friends like you, we can work together to help children live their dreams for a better and secure future in Afghanistan,” she added.

Other distinguished guests, who attended AYENDA to benefit the Afghan Children, included Undersecretary of Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, Mrs. Kathleen Card, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Mary Beth Long.


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