Secretary of State John Kerry, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former First Lady Laura Bush called for increased support for Afghan women during the “Advancing Afghan Women: Promoting Peace and Progress in Afghanistan” symposium held in Washington, DC last week.
The US leaders asserted that women must be a strong part of Afghanistan’s upcoming political, security, and economic transitions as Afghanistan holds new elections and the US withdraws its troops in 2014.
“Societies where women are safe, where women are empowered to exercise their rights and to move their communities forward – these societies are more prosperous and more stable – not occasionally, but always,” said Kerry. “And nowhere is the pursuit of this vision more important, and in many ways more compelling and immediate and possible than in Afghanistan.”
Kerry reminded the audience of just how far Afghanistan has come in terms of women’s rights since 2001, when the Taliban was in control. Only 900,000 children were in school then, all of whom were boys; today, there are eight million school children, one-third of whom are girls. Women’s health has also improved dramatically with a 60 percent increase in access to basic care for the entire population and an 80 percent decrease in the maternal mortality rate.
Both Clinton and Bush encouraged an increase in support of NGOs and other organizations working in the region and called for increased public attention on women’s rights in Afghanistan. “Investing in Afghan women is the surest way to guarantee that Afghanistan will sustain the gains of the last decade and never again become a safe haven for international terrorists,” Kerry said.