Women & Girls Are The Future Of Afghanistan

Susan notes: Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, testified before the Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women's Issues of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, DC. on February 23, 2010. Here's what she said:

I am honored to appear before you today to describe why women and girls are among the most powerful – but still largely underutilized – agents for change to advance security, stability, and development in Afghanistan.

I request that my submitted written testimony be entered into the record, and I will briefly summarize from it. I’d also like to thank you, Senators, for the leadership you have shown on issues affecting Afghan women.

Our civilian assistance strategy in Afghanistan incorporates the values of human rights, good governance, and rule of law. Women’s empowerment in Afghanistan and their full and equal participation in their society are fundamental prerequisites for achieving this strategy.

The era of brutal repression by the Taliban has passed, yet on every measure of development and in every sphere, women in Afghanistan continue to suffer solely because they were born female.

In the political realm, women made immediate gains after the Taliban era. Many entered political life at the most senior levels. However, deteriorating security conditions have made their participation in public life more difficult. Their political gains today appear fragile and require urgent and sustained attention from the international community.

The legacy of the Taliban continues to limit women’s literacy levels, their ability to participate in the professional workforce, and the educational and healthcare infrastructure and resources available to them. Pervasive discrimination remains at every level of society, and Afghan women suffer high levels of domestic abuse and violence in many forms. This violence cannot be explained away as cultural or private; it is criminal and must be addressed as such.

In the face of so many deeply entrenched problems and barriers to progress, it would be tempting to see Afghan women as little more than the victims of the enormity of their circumstances, who have nothing to do with waging a successful counterinsurgency. Nothing could be further from the truth. I traveled to Afghanistan just before the 2009 presidential elections there to reaffirm our country’s commitment to Afghan women and to hear from them how they were faring.

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By Melanne Verveer
US Department of State
Photo credit:
US Department of State

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