December 5th, 2006 04:12 EST
Georgetown University To Partner in Afghanistan Outreach
Washington -- Since the U.S. Afghan Women’s Council was created in 2002, Georgetown University has supported it, offering resources to help Afghanistan gain social and economic stability through one of the country’s chief assets: its women. On December 4, first lady Laura Bush announced a new level of partnership: the university will give the council a permanent home.
“For the council to succeed in the long term, it must become a sustainable institution independent from the federal government,” the first lady told a group of students, faculty and sponsors in Georgetown University’s Gaston Hall. She said that although much has been accomplished in the past five years under the auspices of the State Department, much remains to be done, and that “council members have much to offer Afghanistan” through ideas, expertise and resources.
“Today I'm delighted to announce that the U.S. Afghan Women's Council will partner with Georgetown University to establish a permanent home for the Council. While the U.S. State Department and the Afghan government will still support Council initiatives, today begins a two-year transition that will fully integrate the Council into the Georgetown community,” she said.
The focus of the U.S. Afghan Women’s Council has been to empower Afghan women through educational opportunities, skills training, improving political and legal participation, and access to medical care. Education and health care initiatives sponsored by the council have brought teachers and children into Afghan schools and health workers into communities. The council was established by President Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in January 2002 to promote private-sector and government involvement in rehabilitating women and families scarred by years of war, widowhood and oppression by the Taliban.
Laura Bush noted that in the past five years the U.S. government has contributed more than $10.3 billion to help Afghanistan’s reconstruction. “In Afghanistan, courageous men and women are working every single day to build a stable and a democratic society for themselves,” she said, saying that more than 7 million Afghans have access to health care and 6 million Afghan children, including 2 million girls, now go to school.
“Especially impressive are the strides made by the women of Afghanistan. Afghan women now serve as government ministers and lead as provincial governors,” she said. They are entrepreneurs, educators, farmers, activists, lawyers and community health workers. She added, “Women are now reclaiming their place with men at the center of Afghan society.”
The U.S. Afghan Women’s Council supports programs ranging from small businesses and microcredit to teacher training in American universities. An example of entrepreneurship is Arzu Inc., which trains women in the traditional art of carpet weaving to generate income for their families. Workers are compensated at more than the prevailing rate and given health care.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha hosts a program that gives Afghan teachers advanced English language and computer skills instruction. While there, they stay with local families and learn about American culture. According to Laura Bush, by the end of 2006, more than a hundred Nebraska alumni will have trained hundreds more teachers at workshops throughout Afghanistan.
Georgetown University has shown its commitment to Afghanistan by creating fellowships for Afghan students and organizing several conferences in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, as well as in London and Washington. “We view the entire global community as one human family with whom we strive to be in solidarity,” Georgetown president John J. DeGioia told the group. “In this work we seek especially to assist those whose lives are severely constrained by poverty, war and oppression and other political and economic forces, to empower them to develop their own promise and potential,” he said.
Georgetown alumna and Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky said, “The partnership will strengthen the Council’s work in helping Afghan women and, indeed, all Afghans transform their lives for the better,” providing Georgetown University with an opportunity to apply its many resources.
Afghan Ambassador Said T. Jawad said Afghanistan has “come a long way, but we are not out of the woods yet.” He said, “Today, Afghans enjoy more political, economic and social rights than at any time in the history of our country,” and one of the best things is the sight of Afghan schoolgirls attending classes.
His wife, Shamim Jawad, who heads a children’s initiative, Ayenda, told USINFO that despite security problems, “So far all the projects are continuing with their work successfully.” Programs are centered mostly in Kabul and the northern provinces, she said. She was enthusiastic about the carpet weaving and educational exchange programs.
Ambassador Jawad thanked the United States in the international community for their contributions. “Like a precious Afghan embroidery, many hands and different colored thread are working together to restore the fabric of our society,” he said.
For more information on U.S. policies, see Women in the Global Community and Rebuilding Afghanistan.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)