Declaring that the future of Afghanistan hinged on “ensuring the essential rights of all Afghans,” President Bush today signed into law the Afghan Women and Children Relief Act. Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal and FM Director of Policy and Research Jennifer Jackman attended the bill signing along with Afghan women leaders, women members of Congress, and First Lady Laura Bush. Speaking at the signing, the First Lady applauded the legislation, claiming that it represented the United States’ commitment to re-establishing the freedom and dignity of all Afghan women. Both the First Lady and the President reiterated the Administration’s support for restoring the full rights of women in Afghanistan, and the President commended Afghan women’s advocate Sima Wali, President and CEO of Refugee Women in Development and a Rome group delegate to the United Nations’ sponsored talks in Bonn, on her work to help create a new transitional government that includes women in leadership roles.
Introduced by Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) and sponsored by every woman in the Senate, the Afghan Women and Children Relief Act authorizes the use of funds for educational and healthcare assistance for Afghan women and children living inside Afghanistan or as refugees in neighboring countries. The bill also specifies the use of Afghan women-led nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as a conduit for providing humanitarian aid.