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Women's Initiative Spotlights its Afghan Women’s Project and its First Ladies Program

October 3, 2013 by Margaret Spellings

Last week, I traveled to New York City with Mrs. Bush, Charity Wallace, the Director of the Women’s Initiative, and several members of the Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative Policy Advisory Council to meet with African First Ladies and talk about the Afghan Women’s Project. Our time together was well spent discussing the needs of women and children in their countries.

On Thursday, I joined Mrs. Bush and Charity for a luncheon with six African First Ladies, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, and several organizations that focus on health and education. The gathering was a follow-up to our program announcement at the African First Ladies Summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in July. Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America and Teach for All, discussed the expansion of Teach for America into a world-wide effort, Teach for All, which is working to place bright young folks as teachers in classrooms around the world. 

It was terrific to have President and Mrs. Bush’s daughter, Barbara, join us and tell the group about her work as founder of Global Health Corps. She was able to share her firsthand experience in addressing health needs around the world and introduced us to young leaders who serve in the Global Health Corps. One of the goals of the First Ladies Initiative is to help these leaders foster public-private partnerships and provide connections to potential funding partners, corporations and NGOs. 

Also as part of the trip, the Bush Institute gathered together some of the Bush Administration’s leading voices on women in Afghanistan and hit the New York pavement to talk to the media about the importance of keeping vigilant on this issue.  Joined by Women’s Initiative Policy Advisory Council members Paula Dobriansky, Karen Hughes and Anita McBride, we visited the Wall Street Journal, Fox, NBC News, several women’s magazines and hit the radio waves to remind our friends in the media about the hard-won accomplishments Afghan women have made in the last decade and to ask for their support in keeping a spotlight on them. 

A fact that I was personally moved by is that enrollment in school for Afghan girls has grown from 5,000 under Taliban rule to an estimated 2.4 million girls in school today. This accomplishment is particularly stirring however when set against recent stark UN reports that show deaths to women and children rising to 38 percent in the first six months of 2013. Serious threats remain, and it’s important that we stay engaged and informed.  To learn more, visit the Afghan Women’s Project pages or download the report and use your podium to re-tweet, post or share. 

Last week’s trip, and the special conversations we shared, is an important step in helping African First Ladies and Afghan women and children continue to make incredible differences.  We’ve learned time and time again that the power of one voice, one story, and one woman can make a difference in the world of so many – and literally transform societies.


Author

Margaret Spellings
Margaret Spellings

Margaret Spellings was president of the George W. Bush Presidential Center from 2013 through 2016.  Her work at the Bush Center includes the 2014 launch of the Presidential Leadership Scholars program, a one-of-a-kind leadership program born out of the first-ever partnership of multiple Presidential Centers.

Previously Spellings was president and CEO of Margaret Spellings and Company, a Washington, D.C. consulting firm that provided strategic guidance to philanthropic and private sector organizations. She also served as a senior advisor to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and was president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Prior to that, Spellings served in a variety of positions in the Bush Administration.

She served as U.S. Secretary of Education from 2005 to 2009. In that role, she oversaw an agency with a nearly $70 billion budget and more than 10,000 employees and contractors. As a member of the President’s Cabinet, she led the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), a historic national initiative to provide enhanced accountability for the education of 50 million U.S. public school students.

In 2005, Spellings launched a higher education national policy debate and action plan to improve accessibility, affordability and accountability in our Nation’s colleges and universities. Spellings initiated international outreach and collaboration by leading delegations on behalf of the President of the United States as well as overseeing the development and implementation of international education agreements with such countries as China, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

As White House Domestic Policy Advisor, from 2001 to 2005, she managed the development of the President’s domestic policy agenda. Her achievements include oversight of the development of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the development of a comprehensive immigration plan to ensure long-term economic stability and to secure U.S. borders, and numerous other initiatives on health and human services, transportation, labor, justice and housing.

Prior to her service in the White House, Spellings was senior advisor to then-Governor George W. Bush of Texas, led governmental and external relations for the Texas Association of School Boards, and has served in key positions at Austin Community College and with the Texas Legislature.

She graduated from the University of Houston with a bachelor's degree in political science.

Full Bio

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