The potential in Afghan women and girls

 In Afghanistan

The future of Afghanistan is in its women and girls.

It’s more than just a nice thought. International aid agencies are increasingly funneling resources towards programs that empower women, because when women have equality, the whole community is stronger. In fact, according to a recent piece in the New York Times, “focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism.”

But Afghan women are under siege – from acid attacks, from air strikes, from illiteracy, from the deprivation of basic freedoms like the right to leave home. Try as we might, war can’t address these problems, and in many ways it makes things worse. There is a Senate bill that could help, but it doesn’t have nearly the support it needs. Please ask your senators to support the Afghan Women Empowerment Act of 2009.

This bill would provide support to organizations in Afghanistan that monitor women’s rights, and funnel assistance to Afghan and women led nonprofits. These programs are among the most powerful ways for the US to help rebuild Afghanistan and fight extremism, yet they are deeply underfunded. The Afghan Women Empowerment Act would be a big step towards changing this, but right now only 13 senators have signed on to support it.

According Sweeta Noori, Director for Women for Women International in Afghanistan, “The time has come to invest fully and continually in the women of Afghanistan, prioritizing their rights, recognizing their role in the economy and society, and developing their potential as agents of peace and stability. Development in Afghanistan should not just serve as a justification for military activity; it should be expanded, empowered, and strategic, including and leveraging women across the board.”

General McChrystal is set to request thousands more troops, and a vast amount of blood and treasure is still being poured into combat. But it’s impossible to rebuild a country with war. That’s why we have a duty to stand up for the peaceful tools that can work, but don’t get the support they need from politicians. Please tell your senators today that we need a new approach to Afghanistan – one that will support human rights and make both Americans and Afghans safer.

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