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On Friday, November 15, Mrs. Laura Bush traveled to Washington D.C. to voice her resolute support for the women of Afghanistan and spotlight the gains they have made since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
Mrs. Bush first addressed the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council (USAWC), a council established by Presidents George W. Bush and Hamid Karzai in 2002 to give individual and corporations the ability to support Afghan women and children in the areas of education, health, economic empowerment, leadership development and humanitarian assistance. The Council, now housed at Georgetown University, continues to provide bi-partisan, public and private sector support for policies and programs that benefit Afghanistan’s women and children. Mrs. Bush urged USAWC members to “redouble” their efforts at this crucial moment in Afghanistan’s history. “As we draw down our troops, there is a threat that the attention [of Americans] will shift from Afghanistan. We cannot let that happen.”
Mrs. Bush later joined Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary Hillary Clinton at “Advancing Afghan Women: Promoting Peace & Progress in Afghanistan,” an event co-sponsored by the Bush Institute, USAWC, the Alliance in Support of the Afghan People, and Georgetown’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security. The event sought to galvanize ongoing U.S. and international support and effective programs for Afghan women through the country’s upcoming security, political and economic transitions in 2014 and into the future.
Mrs. Bush participated in a moderated conversation with Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Melanne Verveer, where she answered questions from young female students at the American University of Afghanistan, who participated via videoconference. She encouraged the youth of Afghanistan to engage their peers and leaders in a unified effort calling for a secure transition and future. “It is important for all young people, boys and girls, young men and young women, to be involved in the future of their country. They need to let the older [generation] know what they think is important – to live in a secure, safe country and to have the chance to build a prosperous, stable Afghanistan.”
Secretary Clinton encouraged “an internet movement” to ensure that the interests and work of Afghan women continue to be present in our media. The Bush Institute’s Afghan Women’s Project was created with this goal in mind – to highlight the work of Afghan women in the areas of education, health, economy and political life; to represent Afghan women’s priorities in the upcoming political, economic and security transitions in their country; and to encourage continued commitment and support for initiatives and programs that benefit Afghan women and children.
Mrs. Bush concluded her D.C. visit with a speech at the World Affairs Council of America. “We don’t want the people of Afghanistan to think that because our troops are leaving, that they no longer matter to us, “she said.
“The relationships and friendships that we have built, particularly with Afghan women, through the years matter to us. I want the people of Afghanistan to know that the people of the United States do support them and are with them.”
On November 19, President Bush joined the discussion when he and Mrs. Bush spoke with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. Mrs. Bush highlighted the work of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council and the Bush Institute’s commitment to the women of Afghanistan. “We want to make sure that [Afghan women and girls] continue with the strides that they have made while I troops were there; that, as our troops draw down, they will continue to succeed.” When asked if he thought American troops would be in Afghanistan a long time, President Bush responded, “I hope so. I don’t know how big the footprint needs to be, but I know that if we leave [Afghanistan] too early, women and girls will suffer a lot. The question becomes, “Does it matter to our conscience?’ And I think it should.”
What’s Happening in Afghanistan?
While there have been tremendous gains in Afghanistan, lack of security threatens these gains daily.
Q&A with Dr. Nilofar Ibrahimi, Member of Parliament, Afghanistan
Dr. Nilofar Ibrahimi is a member of the national assembly of Afghanistan. She represents Badakhshan province in the Wolesi Jirga (house of representatives). Her story is one of survival, pursuit of dreams, and dedication to women’s well-being and health. Here, Dr. Ibrahimi shares her thoughts on the current state of Afghan women’s empowerment, the challenges women face in achieving equal rights, and the impact women have on the country’s long-term peace, security, and prosperity.
In Case You Missed It: The Breadwinner, an animated film about the strength and resilience of Afghan women and girls, premieres in the U.S.
The Breadwinner, a new animated film from executive producer Angelina Jolie, tells the story of Parvana, an 11-year-old girl growing up under the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. When her father is wrongfully arrested, Parvana disguises herself as a boy in order to support her family. With dauntless perseverance, Parvana draws strength from the stories her father told her, and ultimately risks her life to discover if he is still alive. The Breadwinner is an inspiring reminder of the power of stories, and their potential to unite and heal us all. It also provides an important spotlight on the struggle endured by Afghan families during the Taliban regime and the resilience of women and girls and their influence in building a brighter future for Afghanistan. Last year, the Bush Institute released We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope, which spotlights more of these courageous stories of Afghan women. Learn more about the book and our work by visiting:&nb