Campaign for Afghan Women & Girls
About the Campaign
In 2009, Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, announced the launching of an expanded campaign, chaired by Mavis Leno and supported by many women’s organizations, leaders and celebrities to help Afghan women and girls and to ensure they will not be forgotten. See Press Release.
In 2002, the Feminist Majority Foundation intensified its nationwide public education campaign for Afghan womena and girls to win the full and permanent restoration of women's rights, promote the leadership of women in the planning and governing of post-Taliban Afghanistan, increase and monitor the provision of emergency and reconstruction assistance to women and girls, urge the expansion of peacekeeping forces, and support the Afghan Ministry for Women's Affairs, the Afghan Independent Rights Commission and Afghan women-led non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Background - Feminist Majority Foundation's Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid
In 1997, The Feminist Majority launched the Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan to urge the US government and the U.N. to do everything in their power to restore the human rights of Afghan women and girls. Chaired by Mavis Leno, the Feminist Majority Foundation's campaign has brought together more than 200 leading human rights and women's organizations to condemn the Taliban's human rights abuses against women and girls and to put pressure on the US and UN to end gender apartheid in Afghanistan.
The Campaign was successful in increasing public awareness about the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan, preventing US and UN recognition of the Taliban, increasing the admission of Afghan women and girls as refugees, increasing humanitarian aid to the region and pressuring UNOCAL, a California oil company to abandon its plans for an Afghan oil and gas pipeline which would have produced over $100 million annually in royalties for the Taliban.
With the fall of the Taliban regime, the Feminist Majority Foundation renamed its campaign and began working to convey to the world that women are an essential part of the solution for the future of Afghanistan .
Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls Action Teams
The Feminist Majority Foundation's Action Teams for Afghan Women and Girls are forming across the United States to raise public awareness and raise funds to support women-led non-profit organizations in Afghanistan. Action Teams are comprised of campus, school and community groups, book clubs, families, and co-workers. Some Action Teams have held public awareness events and circulated petitions. The Action teams have significantly increased awareness about Afghan women and girls and raised the funds to help them. Some 1,200 Action Teams worked on FMF's initial Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid (1997-2001).
Through our website, media interviews, news stories, op-eds, visibility events, speaking engagements, organizational briefings, online organizing, and public education materials, the Feminist Majority Foundation has worked to bring public attention to the fragility of women's rights in Afghanistan, absence of major reconstruction activity, and persistent security needs as well as the return of extreme fundamentalist militias and the Taliban to regions of Afghanistan. Our online Daily Feminist News provides ongoing reports and updates on the situation of women's rights and human rights in Afghanistan . Our website also provides opportunities for online activism on behalf of Afghan women and girls. With the news stories, we provide online action alerts, such as urging expansion of peacekeeping forces and increased funds for reconstruction.
Afghan Women's Scholarship Program
This program enables young Afghan women who could not pursue higher education in Afghanistan or Pakistan to study in the U.S. Our campaign asks U.S. colleges and universities to donate tuition and, if possible, room and board for Afghan women to study in the U.S. These scholarships are intended to help those who obtained high school education before the Taliban took control, or subsequently in refugee schools, and wish to continue their education. Currently, 29 Afghan women are studying in the United States under this program. Some 42 women have been served under this program from its inception. The Feminist Majority Foundation also provides supplemental assistance for books and other expenses for Afghan women who have received scholarships through other sources. Six Afghan refugees have now graduated from four year colleges and universities and two have earned their associates degrees and are continuing their educations. One woman has returned to Afghanistan to make a video production about women in Afghanistan to further U.S. understanding.
Policy Research and Strategy Development
From its inception, our Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls has been based on primary research. Throughout the campaign, we have interviewed Afghan women leaders about the plight of Afghan women and girls and our staff has traveled into the region and to Afghanistan . Our ability to report first-hand on conditions in the region has significantly increased our credibility with policy makers, enhanced our ability to propose concrete policy changes, and strengthened our advocacy campaign.
Our current government relations director, Norma Gattsek, led a fact finding trip to Afghanistan in March 2002. Our former policy and research director, Dr. Jennifer Jackman , has also made a number of trips to Afghanistan and the region including a two-month trip to Afghanistan in the Spring of 2004 as a member of a UN Development team. Jackman remains in close touch with FMF although she has now left our staff.
The Feminist Majority Foundation has provided direct funding to Afghan women's NGOs and other forms of direct assistance from its own funds. In addition to providing grants, we have provided technical assistance to small, women-led non-profits, helping with grant-writing and circulating their proposals among other funders.
Afghan Women's Craft Project
Our Afghan Women's Craft project raises additional funds for Afghan women and girls through on-line sales. All crafts are made by Afghan women. All proceeds go to benefit Afghan women and girls.
The Feminist Majority Foundation has provided leadership for the feminist community on the issues faced by Afghan women and girls for the past twelve years. We have constantly briefed and provided materials to our colleagues about developments in the country and the needs of Afghan women led organizations, the Ministry of Women's Affairs, and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.