shutterstock_56932729The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a new $200 million program Thursday for Afghan women. The five-year plan, called Promote, is expected to increase economic, social, and political participation of women between the ages of 18 and 30 through education, job training, microfinance and credit for female entrepreneurs, and training for policymaking.

Under the Taliban rule, women faced serious restrictions that regulated their dress, conduct, education, economic participation, health, and activities. While there have been some improvements in women’s rightssince the fall of the Taliban rule in 2001, many are concerned that the withdrawal of US troops next year will result in a regression of those advances as well as halt further improvements. According to a Human Rights Watch report, “half of all girls are still not in school and female literacy remains extremely low. Child marriage and forced marriage are common, with 39 percent of girls married before age 18.”

It is estimated that international donors will contribute another $200 million to the program, bringing total funding for the program to $400 million. Head of USAID in Afghanistan, Rajiv Shah, stated that“It is a unique effort to ensure that women are a major part of Afghanistan’s social, economic and political fabric over the next decade, because if they’re not Afghanistan is not likely to be successful.”

Media Resources: Huffington Post 7/18/13; Khaama Press 7/18/13; Washington Post 7/18/13

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