At the encouragement of Afghan interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai, Afghan women have returned to work in the ministries of the Afghan interim government – without wearing their burqas. Although not obligated to shed the head-to-toe shroud, no woman working in any of the government ministries has elected to put on the restrictive garment, required under Taliban rule. Karzai has also directed the ministries to hire more women and has made a push for women’s rights within the country. Earlier this month, Afghan women witnessed Karzai signing the Declaration of the Essential Rights of Afghan Women which affirms women’s right to personal safety, right to physical and mental health, right to institutional education, right not to wear the burqa, and right to equal protection under the law.
While Karzai has made steps towards women’s rights in Afghanistan, the Ministry for Women’s Affairs is in desperate need of immediate funding in order to survive. The Ministry for Women’s Affairs is the only ministry without pre-existing resources. Without funding from donor nations, the ministry will not be able to function, jeopardizing women’s rights initiatives in the country.
Meeting in Tokyo over the past two days, donor nations pledged $4.5 billion in aid for the reconstruction of Afghanistan over the next two years. Of this amount, $1.8 billion is scheduled to be disbursed this year. The U.S. has pledged only $297 million for reconstruction efforts, despite the ruinous effects the U.S.-led war on terrorism has had on Afghanistan’s infrastructure, including water systems, sanitation, and roads. Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority, noted that funding for the effective reconstruction of Afghanistan must be made a priority in the war on terrorism, cautioning that if it is not “we will be right back where we started.” Smeal emphasized that creating peace and stability in Afghanistan is an integral part of our war on terrorism, as instability ultimately led to the rise of the mujahideen and the Taliban, paving the way for terrorist activities.
Media Resources: Washington Post, 1/22/02; USA Today, 1/21/02; Feminist Daily News Wire, 1/17/02; Feminist Majority