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Women’s Initiative Policy Advisory Council Discusses Fellowship Program and Afghanistan

Article by Charity Wallace May 3, 2012 //   3 minute read

The Women’s Initiative Policy Advisory Council, a group of experts that help us with key decisions about our programming, met in Dallas last month along with Mrs. Laura Bush and the leadership of the Bush Institute. One big question was how to expand the Women’s Initiative Fellowship Program, which in February and March brought 14 women from Egypt to the U.S. for a month to acquire additional leadership skills and other tools to build strong networks that can have a lasting impact on their communities. Nearly all the Fellows are in fields such as education, health, business, law or media. During Egypt’s rocky transition, they are seeking to lay the foundations of strong civil society institutions that are essential to a sustainable democracy. The Advisory Council explored three issues: 1) whether to expand the program to two groups per year, 2) whether one of those groups should be from Egypt for the foreseeable future, and 3) where the second group should come from. The discussion was vigorous, and I will report soon on our decisions. In addition, the Advisory Council discussed the pressing issue of women’s rights in Afghanistan at a time when the United States and the Afghan government are negotiating with the Taliban. Afghanistan entered into the consciousness of most Americans only in 2011, after the 9/11 attacks, and women in this country were horrified to learn of the ruling Taliban’s brutal treatment of women and the strict prohibition on girls getting an education In subsequent years, progress has been substantial and heartening, and American women have moved to address the needs of Afghan women in such arenas as education, health care, and entrepreneurship.  At the Bush Institute’s conference on Building Afghanistan’s Future last year, President Hamid Karzai assured the audience that he would not relent on women’s rights, but many observers today are skeptical. In an op-ed in The Hill newspaper headlined, “Women’s rights key to Afghan success,” Mrs. Bush wrote, “We have reason to worry.” The Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative is resolved to continue to spotlight the brave women of Afghanistan and ensure that their plight is remembered even as talks with the Taliban proceed.

This post was written by Charity Wallace, Director of the Women’s Initiative  at the George W. Bush Institute.