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George W. Bush Institute
The U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council
SMU Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development

"Educating and Empowering the Women and Girls of Afghanistan:
A Symposium on Education and Literacy"

Remarks by

Said T. Jawad
Ambassador of Afghanistan to the United States


Dallas, Texas
March 18 and 19, 2010

President and Mrs. Bush
Minister Ghazanfar,
Director Bokova,
Ambassador Melanne Verveer,
Distinguished Members of the US-Afghan Women’s Council,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please allow me to take this opportunity to convey the deep gratitude of the Afghan people for your support and compassion for freedom, education, literacy and women’s rights in Afghanistan. I am honored to be here.

Madame First Lady, you have been a strong advocate for the rights of Afghan women. We will not forget that upon your arrival to Washington you devoted your historic radio address of 2001 to Afghan women, and Afghan women were the prime focus of your exit interviews when you left Washington. You continue to support us from Texas. Afghan women admire and love you.

We are grateful to President Bush for ending the terror and tyranny of the Taliban in Afghanistan and making the world a safer place for our children. We are fortunate to have friends like President and Mrs. Bush who have always stood firm for freedom, security, justice, education healthcare and equal rights for women.

We are working to realize our shared vision of building a pluralistic and civil society in a constitutional state that guarantees the security and civil liberties of all men, women and children and contribute to regional stability and world security.

We have come a long way in Afghanistan, but we are not out of the woods. Under the gender apartheid of the Taliban, women were deprived of all basic human rights. Today, Afghans enjoy more political, economic and social rights than at any time in the history of our country due to your support.

We have successfully incorporated gender equality and women’s rights into our new constitution and laws, enabled women to participate in politics and the workforce, and delivered better access to basic education and health care.

With gender equality in mind, we established key institutions of civil society, governance, independent judiciary and parliament and a powerful human rights commission led by a courageous woman.

Our achievements are numerous, but our challenges remain serious. We have not yet delivered on all the promises that we collectively made to the Afghan women and children.

On one hand, women have reentered political life at the most senior levels as presidential candidates, senators, ministers, governors and ambassadors. On the other hand, these political and social gains are still fragile and require sustained support.

For instance, women are concerned about the high cost of reconciliation with the Taliban. And fewer women are running for public offices in the South.

The full potential of Afghan women as dynamic agents of social change still remains untapped due to insecurity and cultural impediments.

In order to fully materialize this potential, we need to further invest in education and economic empowerment. School enrollment has increased close to 700% in comparison to 2001. Six million children, 37% of whom are girls, are now going to school. More than 50 million new textbooks are published, and the number of schools has increased by 450%. We are implementing a new literacy curriculum designed by UNESCO, as female literacy is still at 20% countrywide and only 10% in rural areas.

However, the quality of education still needs improvement. Five million, or 42% of school-age children, the majority of them girls, still cannot go to school due to insecurity or lack of infrastructure. While girls’ school enrollment has increased dramatically, there are still one-third fewer girls than boys in primary schools.

New women business leaders are emerging, and Afghan women’s NGOs are receiving global respect and recognition. Through the National Solidarity Program, more than 22,000 Afghan women are actively participating in more than 10,000 community development councils to design and implement grants from the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation.

For our accomplishments, we are grateful to President and Mrs. Bush, as well as Secretary Hillary Clinton, Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Ambassador Dobriansky and

Dr. Phyllis Maghreb for their past or present leadership of the US Afghan Women Council.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Like a precious Afghan embroidery, many hands and different colored threads are working together to restore the fabric of our society and restore its beauty. The former First Lady of the United States of America and prominent members of the US-Afghan Women’s Council are joining hands with the determined women in Afghanistan to build a better future for women.

Afghan women and children are grateful and seek your continued support to institutionalize their gains in our new democracy. Please continue to hold their hands as they move toward building a peaceful, prosperous and just society.

Thank you.