WASHINGTON, DC Ð The Feminist Majority commends both chambers of the U.S. Congress for unanimously approving legislation late last night that triples U.S. funding for Afghanistan. This bill, first introduced with unanimous bipartisan support in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in August, provides $2.3 billion over the next four years in humanitarian and reconstruction aid for Afghanistan and $1 billion over the next two years for expansion of international peacekeeping forces. If signed by President Bush, this legislation will authorize humanitarian and reconstruction aid that is double the amount first proposed by the House, and, for the first time, authorize funds for U.S. support of international peace troop expansion.
What’s more, this bill makes Afghan women a funding priority. Both the House and the Senate kept intact an amendment introduced in August by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) that provides $15 million each year over four years for the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs and $5 million for the newly-created independent Human Rights Commission.
“At last, we have tripled our funds for Afghanistan. This is a tremendous victory,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “Recognizing that Afghan women are in dire need, Sens. Boxer and (Joseph) Biden (D-DE) pushed for this amendment to help Afghan women emerge from the violence that has remained in their lives since the Taliban was ousted from power one year ago.”
“Failure in Afghanistan, and for Afghan women and girls, is not an option,” Boxer said upon introducing the amendment in August.
In the year since the Taliban was driven from Afghanistan, women and girls have reported repeated incidents of violence across the country. In the last two months, a dozen girls’ schools have been burned, bombed or closed. Just before and after many of these attacks, fundamentalist leaflets were passed out that warned girls against going to school. In addition, continued threats against women who speak out for women’s rights, who go to work, or who take off the burqa have been reported.
Currently, there are approximately 5,000 International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops that patrol within the capital city of Kabul. With the continued incidents of violence, ISAF must be increased in numbers and in scope if President Hamid Karzai’s government is to maintain control over the country. Without U.S. support, expansion of these international peacekeeping forces is not possible.
“This continued violence clearly shows the relationship between security and women’s rights. Without the expansion of ISAF, the country will return to the control of the warlords and fundamentalists who destroyed it and again will become a base for terrorism,” Smeal noted.
The Feminist Majority spearheaded the drive for ISAF expansion, additional humanitarian aid funds and funding earmarks for the Women’s Ministry and Human Rights Commission. The Feminist Majority and other women’s organizations have been asking the Bush administration to expand peacekeeping troops beyond Kabul and increase reconstruction funding for the past year.
The Feminist Majority was the first U.S. group to launch a campaign against gender apartheid in Afghanistan. For six years, the Feminist Majority led an education campaign to bring the atrocities of the Taliban to the world’s attention and to demand equality for Afghan women. For more information on the Feminist Majority’s Campaign to Help Afghan Women and Girls visit www.feminist.org.###