Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced the Afghan Women Empowerment Act of 2006 last week, which authorizes funding for the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC, and Afghan women-led nonprofit organizations (NGOs) to promote the rights of women and to provide services for women and girls in Afghanistan. The Act seeks to strengthen institutions that promote and protect women’s rights and nonprofit organizations led by Afghan women as “essential to building civil society and holding the Government of Afghanistan accountable for protecting women’s rights and human rights.” It specifically authorizes the President to appropriate $10 million each year for three years for the AIHRC, $5 million each year for the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and $30 million each year to be used by Afghan women-led NGOs to provide adult literacy, technical training, health care, education, and other critically needed services to women and girls throughout Afghanistan.
In introducing the Act, Senator Boxer stated, “I am pleased to introduce legislation today Ð as we celebrate International Women’s Day Ð to strengthen and empower the women and girls of AfghanistanÉ More than four years after the invasion of Afghanistan and the fall of the Taliban government, the women of Afghanistan still face significant hurdles as they seek to realize their full potential.” Boxer also cited the increasing threats to Afghan women and their rights as she stated that, “perhaps most troubling, the security situation for women is getting worse Ð threatening to slow or even reverse the gains that Afghan women have made over the past four years.”
The Feminist Majority, through its Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls, has advocated strongly for direct funding for Afghan women-led nonprofit organizations and for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Independent Human Rights Commission. Legislation authorizing this direct funding was passed in 2002 but it is about to expire, creating the need for new legislation if the United States is to continue to support the women and girls of Afghanistan in their efforts to regain their rights.