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Afghan women's gain in peril: Laura Bush

Afghan women's gain in peril: Laura Bush

Nov 15, 2013 - 09:59

KABULinfo-icon (PANinfo-icon): Former first lady Lara Bush, concerned at the current situation in Afghanistaninfo-icon, has warned that hard-won achievements of womeninfo-icon and girls run the risk of being reversed.

Under the Talibaninfo-icon regime that was ousted in 2001, only 5,000 Afghan girls were enrolled in school, she recalled. But the number soared to 2.4 million by 2011, she wrote in an article.

"Yet these gains are fragile, and there is a real danger that they will be reversed. In the first half of this year, according to the United Nations, Afghanistan’s civilian death rate rose precipitously," she said.

The death rate for women and children rose 38 percent from the same period last year because of improvised explosive devices and the deliberate targeting of civilians by militants, Laura Bush wrote in a piece for the Washington Post.

She referred to last year's killing of two female acting directors of women’s affairs in Laghman province and a female parliamentarian this August, as well as injuries to a senator injured in an  ambush.

Khadija Ghaznawi -- the only female runner for the 2014 presidential election -- was disqualified, she explained. Ghaznawi was running on a platform of educationinfo-icon and jobs to give young men better options than joining the Taliban.

"For many Americans, the situation in Afghanistan seems too complex and too far away to confront. I worry that the message we are sending to Afghan men, women and children is that their lives are not worth our time or attention. That message must change — we cannot abandon them."

As US troops prepare to exit, key American-supported organisations that provide educational and economic opportunity for women are staying in the country. They were not going to abandon Afghanistan or its women, she said.

She particularly mentioned ARZU, a private company that was launched in 2004 by an American woman to provide Afghan women with steady income by sourcing and selling rugs they weave. Women who work for ARZU have to send their children to school.

"In Kabul in 2005, I announced the opening of the American University of Afghanistan, the country’s only private, not-for-profit university for men and women. This spring, enrollment reached 958 students -- half of them women."

The Aschiana Foundation, Kate Spade New York, Women for Women International and Sesame Workshop were endeavouring to improve the lives of Afghan women and girls, Laura Bush wrote.

PAN Monitor/mud


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