Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal Commends Bipartisan Efforts
Washington, DC—In a display of bi-partisan support for the women of Afghanistan, Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle together with the Feminist Majority today urged that Afghan women not be forgotten in the discussion of Afghanistan’s future. Commending the work of Afghan-led, humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) introduced a resolution, supported by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), calling for the involvement of Afghan women’s organizations in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and for more funding to Afghan women NGO’s to provide critically needed health, education, and relief services to Afghan women and children.
Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority, whose Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid was the first to sound the alarm in the United States of the horrific treatment of women under the Taliban, commended the efforts of the Congresswomen and highlighted the important roles women played in Afghan society prior to the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul in 1996.
“Without women’s participation and leadership, reconstructing a civil society in Afghanistan is not possible nor is it possible to eliminate terrorism. Prior to the Taliban’s capture of Kabul, Afghan women were 40% of the doctors, 70% of the teachers, and 30% of the civil servants. “However, once the Taliban forbade women from working and going outside their homes, the country’s medical and educational systems collapsed. The future of a peaceful stable and democratic Afghanistan depends in large measure upon the strength of the Afghan women.”
Slaughter’s resolution urges President Bush to encourage that any new government established in Afghanistan also include women as leaders and as full and active participants.
Smeal noted, “We have real momentum now in the drive to restore the rights of women. In addition to this effort of the House women, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) on the floor of the Senate added an amendment to the Foreign Operations appropriations legislation that women should be a part of the peace process and that women’s rights must be restored in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid (D-NV), wearing a burqa swatch on the Senate floor on Monday, urged that Afghan women’s rights be restored.”
“We must not forget that Afghan women were the first victims of the Taliban,” reminded Smeal. “The Taliban’s policies and practices against women were an early warning. Now, as we seek to remove this terrorist regime that has wreaked havoc, we must return women to their rightful place in society. We must establish a broad-based constitutional democracy that restores women’s suffrage and insists that women be leaders and participants in that government.”