Remarks at a PBS Reception and Screening of Afghanistan UnveiledPaula J. Dobriansky
National Press Club Ballroom
December 1, 2004
Good evening distinguished guests and so many friends who are here tonight. I would like to thank Pat and PBS for hosting this wonderful event. Pat, youíve played a pivotal role in making tonightís presentation possible, and in our overall efforts to help the women of Afghanistan. Thanks to Tim McBride of DaimlerChrysler for his unwavering support to Afghanistan. Welcome Mrs. Jawad, and I also want to extend a special welcome to Shakeba Adel, one of the talented filmmakers of Afghanistan Unveiled. She has come all the way from Kabul as a guest of PBS. Shakeba was still in high school when she began working on this project, and she was the first woman journalist to broadcast the fall of the Taliban. She is the primary camerawoman, director, and co-producer of another documentary called If I Stand Up, appropriately about Afghan women and the recent Presidential elections. We look forward to seeing the next film as well.
Afghanistan Unveiled was filmed 2 years ago between September 2002 and January 2003. It is the remarkable product of 14 brave women journalists. The film stems from a project to train Afghan women journalists, and document Taliban abuses through oral histories. As a result of the program, which was funded by the U.S. Government, there are now more Afghan women trained and working as journalists, and more than 70 oral histories have been collected by our implementing partner, The Asia Foundation. Carol Yost is here tonight. Thank you.
Afghanistan Unveiled is a vision of Afghanistan through their eyes. Most of these women had never previously been able to travel outside of Kabul. As they learned about the Afghan countryside, so did we. They delved into the harsh lives of many rural Afghan women, and related it to their own experiences and newfound freedom. Through their work, we have gained a better understanding of Afghan culture, tradition, and heritage, and also the developmental challenges that Afghanistan faces.
In making this film, these creative and courageous women also showed the world the hope and determination of free Afghan women. This determination was clearly demonstrated last month, when over 8 million Afghans voted--more than 3.2 million of them women. This historic event marked the first time national elections have been held in Afghanistanís 5,000-year history.
Afghan women have accomplished much in 3 years. Were the film being made now, we might see and hear of the women who participated in the Constitutional Loya Jirga, where they demanded and received a constitution that guaranteed equal rights for men and women, regardless of ethnicity or tribe. We might see the 82 year-old blind woman who kept waking up her son during the night before the election, because she was afraid that she was going to be late to vote; or the women who steadfastly remained in the polling line despite a rocket explosion nearby. It would highlight girls going to school, and women starting businesses and holding pivotal roles in government.
In January 2002, President Bush and President Karzai met in Washington to chart a course for a liberated Afghanistan. Among the programs they inaugurated was the U.S. Afghan Womenís Council. The Council bridges assistance from the American public and private sectors in support of Afghan women. It matches needs and resources through public-private partnerships to fund projects that Afghan women have identified as priorities--such as education, micro-enterprise, and health care.
One of the first people we turned to for involvement with the Council was Pat Mitchell. Patís work through the Council has been to help Afghan women gain access to the media, and to tell their story in their own words. Thanks to Patís belief in this project, millions of people have been able to watch the film across America. This was made possible when PBS bought the rights to Afghanistan Unveiled. In fact, earlier this year, I announced her initiative at the AINA Afghan Media and Culture Center in Kabul; the news was greeted with cheers. Patís commitment is strong. She keeps in touch with many of these young journalists through frequent emails, and this has been an inspiration to them to continue their journalistic endeavors. We have greatly appreciated Patís dedication and commitment. This film symbolizes many things: our desire to support the women of Afghanistan; the creative potential of these and other Afghan women--just waiting to be unlocked; and finally it portrays the daunting challenges we still face in working toward a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. But there can be no doubt that we have all come a long way, and if these determined women journalists and our spirit of cooperation are any guide, we can expect the new dawn in Afghanistan to continue to grow brighter.
Released on December 7, 2004