Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls
The Feminist Majority’s largest global undertaking to date has been the Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls (formerly the Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan). The campaign, chaired by Mavis Leno, is the first of its kind to build a U.S. grassroots constituency around a foreign policy issue of women’s rights, and it successfully brought the Taliban regime’s atrocities against women and girls in Afghanistan to the attention of the United States and the world. We built a co-sponsoring network of some 250 women’s rights and human rights organizations for the Campaign. With the support of literally tens of thousands, our work was key in stopping U.S. and U.N. recognition of the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. President Bill Clinton announced that the US would not recognize the Taliban at a 1998 White House event celebrating International Women’s Day.
Near the end of the Clinton Administration, in a meeting with Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal, Secretary of State Madeline Albright stated that, during her tenure, the State Department had received more emails advocating for Afghan women than on any other foreign policy. Secretary Albright attributed this outpouring of support for Afghan women to the Feminist Majority’s Campaign.
To date, the Feminist Majority’s efforts have resulted in $557 million in Congressional appropriations programs to benefit Afghan women, for funding for Afghan Women’s NGO’s, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.
As the US and its allies draw down troops from Afghanistan, the Feminist Majority is working to ensure that the rights and needs of Afghan women and girls remain a priority. For Afghanistan to establish a stable democracy and a strong civil society, full empowerment, education, employment and access to health care for women and girls is imperative. It is also important for our own security to assist in sustaining the stability that women’s empowerment will bring to Afghanistan. In addition, the US must continue to help Afghan women to build on the progress that they have achieved. Girls are going to school now, but there are still attacks aimed at deterring this advancement.
Most recently, in April and May 2012, nearly 300 schoolgirls in the Talokhan and Takhar Provinces were poisoned. In one school, they became ill after drinking contaminated water and in another they reported a foul odor. Despite such attacks, the courageous women and girls of Afghanistan are not willing to give up their hard won freedoms. The Feminist Majority will continue to advocate for the US to assist in rebuilding a civil society where women and girls will prosper.