The Senate Appropriations Committee last week approved an $18.2 billion FY 2004 Foreign Operations package, which included $600 million for humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in Afghanistan. The bill includes earmarks of $4.5 million for the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, $10 million for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and $2.5 million for the Judicial Reform Commission. The House Foreign Operations package also contains $600 million for Afghanistan, and in its report language supports earmarks for the Ministry of Women_s Affairs and the Independent Human Rights Commission.
The Feminist Majority has been leading efforts to win higher levels of funding for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the Independent Human Rights Commission, and Afghan women-led NGOs.
In other news, Hamid Karzai, the Transitional Administration Chairman of Afghanistan, has established the procedures for choosing delegates for the October Loya Jirga that will adopt a new Constitution. The 500-member loya jirga will will include 70 women. Some additional women may be elected through the regular delegate selection process.
Women’s rights advocates expressed disappointment that the number of women delegates would not be much higher than at the 2002 Loya Jirga, when women comprised 13 percent of the delegates. “We hope the low representation of women in the United States Congress is not providing a quota ceiling for women in other countries,” said Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal, citing that women are also only 12 percent of the 25-member Iraq Council.
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