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Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Afghan Women and Girls

Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Robert Casey (D-PA) held a joint subcommittee hearing yesterday of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Afghan Women and Girls: Building the Future of Afghanistan.

Dr. Sima Samar, chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, traveled from Afghanistan to testify. Dr. Samar provided invaluable insight on the current situation of women and girls in Afghanistan. She warned: "women must be included in the reconciliation process and their voices must be heard." She noted, "at the recent conference on Afghanistan in London, no women or human rights activists were included in our (Afghanistan's) delegation. After the recent elections in the country, only one woman was approved as a minister despite the lobbying efforts of women's rights activists."

Rachel Reid of Human Rights Watch also traveled from Afghanistan to testify. In her testimony, she said that most women she's spoken with want "peace and justice, transparency and inclusion, [and] no illusions about "moderate Taliban.'" Other "non-negotiables" include access to education and health care, freedom to work and participate politically, and maintenance of constitutional protections of these rights.

Melanne Verveer, the United State's first Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, announced an updated Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization strategy, which now includes a major section on women's inclusion in the stabilization process and integrates women and girls in every other section. At the hearing, she testified that the "stabilization strategy recognizes women as agents of change and underscores their importance to our civilian stabilization plan and our efforts to strengthen Afghan communities' capacity to withstand the threat posed by extremism. It establishes women's empowerment as critical to unleashing the full economic potential of the Afghan people."

In her statement at the hearing, Senator Boxer said, "progress is at risk as Afghan President Hamid Karzai moves to reintegrate elements of the Taliban into local and national politics and society through a process called reconciliation. It is critical that Afghan women play a meaningful role in any reconciliation process so that women's rights and freedoms are guaranteed."

Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal, who attended the hearing, stated, "Dr. Samar came at a crucial time. It is critical that Afghan women's voices are heard as this reconciliation and peace process develops." She continued, "Dr. Samar provided invaluable information on the plight of Afghan women and girls and the need to ensure their participation in any reconciliation process."

Media Resources: Testimony of Sima Samar 2/23/10; Testimony of Melanne Verveer 2/23/10; Testimony of Rachel Reid 2/23/10; Statement of Barbara Boxer 2/23/10; Interview with Eleanor Smeal 2/24/10

© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

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