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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2002 > September

Remarks at the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council's "Women in Government" Reception

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
September 24, 2002

(5:45 p.m. EDT)

Secretary Powell with Afghan women Well, thank you very much, Paula and Pat, for those introductions. It's a great pleasure for me to be here this afternoon to welcome you all to the State Department to the Ben Franklin Room, and it is a great pleasure to join the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council in welcoming to the Department this distinguished group of 14 Afghan leaders who happen to be women. We are very, very proud to have you here this afternoon -- women who occupy path-breaking positions in the new transitional administration.

President Bush had the opportunity earlier today to assure our distinguished Afghan visitors of America's strong and abiding commitment to their country's future. And I want especially to thank the members and friends of the Women's Council for the truly impressive work they have done to empower all Afghan women since President Bush and President Karzai announced the Council's formation this past January.

Just one year ago, the lives of the capable Afghan women we honor today and all other Afghan women were bleak indeed. Under the tyranny of the Taliban, they were virtual prisoners, prisoners in their own homes, banned from school, banned from public life, banned from the workplace. Many studied or practiced as best they could furtively, or they were forced totally into inactivity, unable to pursue their trades, their professions, their dreams, their ambitions. Some were beaten, some were imprisoned, some were driven into exile. All lived in fear for the future -- for their own future and for the future of their country.

Secretary Powell with Afghan womenAnd now, less than a year later, these pioneering women are helping to build a future of hope for Afghanistan and for all the people of Afghanistan. They are judges, educators, economists, legislators. They bring skills in journalism, finance, women's sports, and small business. And today, they are working to meet the enormous humanitarian needs of the Afghan people. They are helping to reform the judicial system and establish the rule of just law for all Afghans. They are advancing human rights for all Afghans, including especially the human rights of women and of children. They are preparing that younger generation of Afghans, both boys and girls, for success in a 21st century world. They are working to build a vibrant civil society in which women can fully participate. They are helping Afghan women enter the economy and gain a measure of economic self-sufficiency and dignity. They are helping to establish accountable institutions of government. In short, they are doing everything they can to lay a solid foundation for Afghanistan's long-term stability and development.

This dedicated group of 14 represents many, many more -- thousands more -- Afghan women who are making a fundamental contribution to their country's future. We all know, and it's to be sure, that there is a long road ahead for the women of Afghanistan and for their country. Fortunately, there is broad agreement in the United States, within the world community, and within Afghanistan's transitional administration that women must play prominent roles in the massive relief, reconstruction, and development efforts that lay ahead. They must play an important role if those efforts are to succeed. Women must be planners, they must be implementers, and they must be beneficiaries.

Countries that treat women, we all know, with dignity, countries where women have a choice in how they live their lives, countries that afford them equal access to essential services and countries that give them an equal opportunity to contribute to their society -- these countries, and Afghanistan will be one of them, will be the most stable, viable, and capable nations in meeting the challenges of the 21st century. This is the kind of Afghanistan that the United States is committed to helping the women and the men of Afghanistan to build.

And on behalf of everyone here, on behalf of President Bush, and especially on behalf of all of the American people, I wish to express our deep admiration to our 14 distinguished guests and to extend to them our strong support as they work to shape a brighter future for all the people of Afghanistan.



Released on September 24, 2002

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