Stating that, “The women of Afghanistan have been the backbone of Afghan society,” Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday called for the restoration of Afghan women’s rights and for the inclusion of women in the reconstruction of post-Taliban Afghanistan. “The recovery of Afghanistan must entail the restoration of the rights of Afghan women. Indeed, it will not be possible without them,” said Powell. “The rights of the women of Afghanistan will not be negotiable.” Powell also assured the American people that the Bush Administration would work to include women in “all aspects of the humanitarian, reconstruction, and development efforts that will be undertaken” in Afghanistan as well as in the new government of Afghanistan, which Powell strongly advised be “broad-based and representational.”
Some one hundred fifty people, including leaders of Afghan and American non-governmental organizations (NGOs), members of Congress, world ambassadors, and leaders of the Feminist Majority, including Eleanor Smeal, President, Mavis Leno, Chair of the Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan, and Jennifer Jackman, Director of the Campaign, attended the White House briefing on the State Department’s report “The Taliban’s War on Women.” Undersecretary of Global Affairs, Paula Dobriansky, also spoke at the briefing and indicated that the State Department would be meeting with Afghan women to determine the form of the new Afghan government and to ensure universal rights for women.
Prior to the public meeting, Smeal, Leno, and Jackman met with Condoleeza Rice, National Security Advisor, and Karen Hughes, Counselor to the President. In a separate meeting, the three Feminist Majority leaders met with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. In these private meetings, the government officials expressed their strong support for the campaign to restore women’s rights.