Women Lawmakers Keep Afghan Women Funding in Supplemental
Women members of the House and Senate succeeded in their fight to keep language in the Iraq and Afghanistan Emergency Supplemental appropriations package that provides funds for programs for women and for human rights. In conference committee negotiations, some male lawmakers tried to delete $60 million designated for women's programs in the Afghanistan reconstruction package, claiming that this amount was too large of a portion of the overall $1.2 billion Afghan reconstruction package.
After contentious debate, Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Mary Landreiu (D-LA), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) succeeded in keeping the funding for women's programs, along with $5 million earmarked for the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, in the bill. According to the Washington Post, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) challenged her male colleagues who attempted to take out the money, asking how they could eliminate funding for the "brutalized women of Afghanistan." "It's been stripped out. Who ever heard of such a thing?" said Landreiu.
Introduced by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the Afghan women's program funding amendment passed the House on a voice vote with bi-partisan support. The funds were authorized last year in an amendment by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to the Afghan Freedom Support Act of 2002.
Women's rights, human rights, and Afghan groups have criticized the Bush Administration for shortchanging Afghanistan's reconstruction. While Congress added $400 million more to Afghanistan's reconstruction than requested by President Bush, the spending for Iraq's reconstruction is 20 times more than Iraq's despite the fact that the two countries are the same size and Afghanistan has suffered more destruction over 23 years of war.