Statement to the USAID to Commemorate Women's History MonthPaula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Global Affairs
Reception and Photo Exhibit on Afghan Women
March 11, 2004
Thank you Gordon, for that kind introduction. I would like to recognize and welcome Minister Qanooni and the other distinguished guests present. I am pleased to be here at the U.S. Agency for International Development on this terrific occasion.
We have come not only to commemorate Women’s History month, but also to salute the women of Afghanistan, and the work our coalition partners and USAID have done on their behalf. Much has been accomplished by all of the different groups working together in Afghanistan.
These magnificent photos say it all. Afghan women are emerging to take their rightful place in their society. This progress is due in part to the work of USAID, other agencies and our international partners, but of course the primary source of progress is the tenacity and spirit of the women of Afghanistan themselves.
Last month, I was in Afghanistan to participate in the fourth meeting of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, a public-private partnership initiative launched in January 2002 by Presidents Bush and Karzai to help the women of Afghanistan. During my visit, I met with many senior government officials, including President Karzai and Minister Qanooni. I spent three days in the country, meeting with hundreds of Afghans and talking to people about their lives. We visited schools, hospitals, women’s centers and even helped plant trees for a conservation project known as the Afghan Conservation Corps, which seeks to provide employment to refugees, internally displaced persons and widows on environmental improvement projects such as tree planting, building of irrigation systems and sewing of tree nets.
A great deal of hard work is taking place to help rebuild Afghanistan behind the scenes of the photos you see here. The United States has begun the construction of three women’s resource centers in Afghanistan. We have dedicated an additional $2.5 million to help build similar centers in fourteen more provinces and provide educational programs focusing on literacy, job skills training, health, political participation, and other needs of women. This will help the Ministry of Women’s Affairs meet its goal of establishing a network of centers in each of Afghanistan’s thirty-two provinces. Through the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, we are providing an additional $1 million in educational training to the centers.
Supporting Afghanistan’s emerging democracy has been a particular priority. The United States is providing $15 million to assist voter registration and another $8.86 million to support the electoral process in Afghanistan through programs that include civic and voter education, focus group research, training for political parties and civic activists. Special programs target women, to reinforce the importance of voting and political participation.
This is just a sample of our efforts—there are many other initiatives under way or in planning. But these facts and figures don’t fully convey the hard work and perseverance of officials from USAID, as well as their counterparts in Afghanistan and other governments. Their efforts and the determination of Afghans to rebuild a vibrant, democratic and free society leave me confident that Afghan women can realize their dream of a bright future.
This Administration has a long-term commitment to Afghanistan. We want to see a democratic, prosperous, peaceful and stable Afghanistan. Toward this end, we have invested almost $4 billion over the last 3-4 years in the country’s reconstruction and humanitarian assistance initiatives. Our programs especially support the pivotal role of women who are integral to Afghanistan’s future development. In his State of the Union Address in January, President Bush said “The men and women of Afghanistan are building a nation that is free and proud and fighting terror—and America is honored to be their friend.” It is this very spirit that underpins tonight’s event.
Thank you for being here and for your efforts on behalf of Afghanistan, and especially the women of Afghanistan.