The U.S.-Afghan Women's Council

After the fall of the Taliban, the United States launched a historic initiative to help elevate the status of women in Afghanistan. To accelerate progress, President George W. Bush and President Hamid Karzai announced the creation of the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council (USAWC) on January 28, 2002.

The Council promotes public-private partnerships between U.S. and Afghan institutions and mobilizes private sector resources to help Afghan women. Specifically, the Council seeks to identify concrete actions to bring real and practical benefits to the women of Afghanistan and to enable them to participate and take leadership roles in the political and economic life of their country.

To this end, the Council has made education and microfinance its top priorities.
Too bad - under patriarchy - refuge and shelter has to be the top priority. Battered women's villages - transitional living space free from abuse is the first need. But if you are from the privileged classes, you do not understand the urgency of this need.


The Council meets twice a year, alternating between Kabul and Washington, D.C., to discuss programs and priorities for assisting Afghan women and to review progress.

Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky co-chairs the Council with the Afghan Foreign Minister and the Afghan Minister of Women's Affairs. What are their names?

See for more information about Council members.
Take a look at these people. Not one has ever organized victims of patriarchal violence. They are so removed from that world. They are wealthy. They have fundraising credentials. There is no evaluation or input by feminists who have actually changed resistant, misogynist institutions within the US - civil rights organizers and feminist organizers with track records of success.
This is primarily the fault of those organizers who have refused to work with this president even to free their own kind from slavery. Would these modern day feminists have refused to support the abolitionist movement because Lincoln was a Republican? But it is also the fault of this administration who has not appointed any real feminists to the US-Afghan Women's Council to assist in the Middle East efforts.

June 2004
The Council's fifth meeting was held in Washington, DC in the Treaty Room of the White House on June 15, 2004. Members and invited Afghan and American special guests discussed several key issues, including the Afghan national elections, health care, and jobs.

President Bush, President Karzai, Secretary Powell, National Security Advisor Rice, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Thompson met with the group. First Lady Laura Bush honored the Council with a lunch.

More than 20 Afghan women attended the meeting and the lunch, including four Afghan Fulbright scholars (a U.S. Department of State educational exchange program), four Afghan women judges on a USAWC training project, and 12 U.S. Department of Agriculture Cochran Fellows in the U.S. for a U.S. Department of Agriculture program for job training in agribusiness.
See what I mean?

February 2004
The fourth meeting of the Council was held in Kabul, February 24-26, 2004.
Discussions focused on:
education, specifically the Teacher Training Institute and Afghan Literacy initiative; microfinance;
the new constitution;
and the elections in Fall 2004.

The delegation visited a women's center and met with project managers of programs supported by the U.S. Government and by the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council.

July 2003
The Council's third meeting, in Washington, D.C., July 15-16, 2003, focused on the educational needs of women and girls, job skills training, business development, and the upcoming elections.

The delegation met with First Lady Laura Bush and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice at the White House. Secretary Powell hosted a luncheon in their honor.

January 2003
At the Council's second meeting in Kabul, the U.S. announced that it would provide $2.5 million for women's resource centers in 14 of Afghanistan's provinces. The Council also committed $1 million in education and exchange programs for the centers. The centers should include shelters for women who wish to escape abuse and become self sufficient.

Programs at these centers focus on basic education literacy, microfinance and small business opportunities, human rights education, and the development and management of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Inaugural Meeting
The inaugural meeting took place in Washington, D.C. in April 2002. In response to a request from the Afghan side, the Council later announced its first initiative would bring Afghan women who work in government ministries to the United States for an educational exchange program.

The program focused on computer training, leadership, and management training, and other skills vital to their positions.

Political Participation Women's Resource Center.
USAID is building 17 Women's Resource Centers in Afghanistan.
Four centers have been completed and two more are scheduled to finish in the near future.
The centers will support outreach, advocacy, and policy formation of the Ministry of Women's Affairs, and create a space in rural provinces for training women in education, health, job skills, leadership, legal awareness, and political participation.

Through USWAC women executives of AOL(Time Warner) donated $60,000 for the construction of the resource center in Parwan.

Afghan Women Leaders Connect (AWLC) ($10,000).
This contribution supported a conference in Kabul in Fall 2004 hosted by the Women and Children Legal Research Foundation focusing on legal rights. This is in addition to the Summer 2004 grant of $10,000 that AWLC provided to the International Association of Women Judges to supplement the $75,000 grant by the State Department's International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau, which trained four Afghan women judges in civil and family law.What kind of civil law? Secular? Where is it codified?

Digital Video Conference.
The Council has used digital videoconference (DVC) technology to connect Kabul, Washington, DC and New York, setting up links for discussions and mentoring sessions between women in these cities.
The DVC in November 2003 focused on women's political participation in Afghanistan's draft constitution and the Afghan elections in 2004.
TheDVC in April 2003 focused on the topic of women and business.

Economic Opportunities Community Banks.
The Council views microcredit as an important means of helping women gain self-sufficiency through starting their own businesses. Through an original $10,000 donation to the Council from Daimler-Chrysler, the Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA), a leading NGO in microfinance, helped start two village banks in Herat.
Daimler-Chrysler contributed an additional $25,000 in February 2004 to construct another five community banks to support microfinance loans for women in Herat province.
With Additional funding from the U.S. Government and other donors, FINCA expects to assist more than 30,000 clients in Afghanistan over the next 5 years.

U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs/USAWC Department of State Grants ($750,000).
Five grants were awarded to organizations for proposals that include:
business and political leadership training (grant to World Learning);
entrepreneurship training (grant to Women for Afghan Women);
education and literacy training (grants to American Council for International Education and Institute for Training and Development);
and women's leadership training (grant to University of Delaware).

Seventy-one women have taken leadership training under the University of Delaware grant thus far.

Thunderbird Graduate School of International Management.
Fifteen Afghan women successfully completed an advanced entrepreneurship training in January 2005. The participants aim to start businesses that would create jobs for women and to serve as mentors/teachers in Afghanistan.

Global Summit of Women ($40,000).
Supported by USAID, a delegation of nine Afghan women attended the 2004 Global Summit in Seoul, Korea, in May to discuss trade opportunities and receive entrepreneurship training.

Arzu Carpet Initiative ($530,000).
This program provides training and literacy skills to Afghan women in the hand-knotted carpet industry. Connie Duckworth, a USAWC member, provided the seed money to get the project started. Arzu placed its first carpet order on International Women's Day (March 8, 2004). The project Arzu (which means "Hope" in Dari) not only creates jobs and a cottage industry, it also re-circulates some of its profits to support microcredit initiatives and additional training for women.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Cochran Fellowships.
Twelve women representing five provinces came to the United States in Spring 2004 for job training as managers and technicians in agribusiness.

Handicraft Training ($130,000).
The Global Summit of Women (July 2002 in Barcelona, Spain) donated approximately $10,000 for job-skills training for women. Through this program, Shuhada, a local organization, is training women in weaving skills. At the conclusion of the program, the women will receive their own looms to produce textiles for market. At the conclusion of the program, the women will receive their own looms to produce textiles for market. This is a big deal. Ever since the film "Afghan Unveiled", many people have wanted to get looms to Afghan women living in caves in the Bamiyan geographic location: Herat ? women and children who were living in caves without any source of fuel, nor livestock nor food. Nayak which does have a school for girls, built by American Friends Service Committee, is in central Afghanistan, near Bamiyan.

It is unclear from this fact sheet as to whether the Bamiyan women will receive the looms. More info as to how to contact Shuhada or Global Summit of Women directly would be appreciated

Media Women Journalists.
The PBS broadcast in November 2004 of the film "Afghanistan Unveiled" created an opportunity for mentoring for another Afghan journalist, the fourth that PBS, through USAWC auspices, has trained in the U.S.

PBS provided modern digital video production and editing equipment for the women video filmmakers to use in Afghanistan and training videos for use at AINA, a Kabul-based NGO devoted to media training.

The film "Afghanistan Unveiled" for which PBS paid $20,000 in royalties and rights depicts life under the Taliban and the journalist's' journey for the truth. PBS has also optioned the rights for AINA's next film about women's human rights called "If I Stand Up."

These films and several short videos to encourage women to vote were made by the "women's project" at AINA with Department of State and USAID funding (from Summer 2002 through the October 2004 elections).

The Asia Foundation (TAF) was a partner on the original "Afghanistan Unveiled" project in 2002 and continues to host trainings and screenings of the film (California, Maryland and Sundance Festivals.)

Health Health Advisory Committee.
On July 26, 2004 the Council's newly formed Health Advisory Committee sponsored a special session to discuss health issues and create public/private partnerships to utilize resources for greater impact and sustainability.
Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky hosted the organizing meeting for the committee.

Midwife Training. The $5-million Rural Education and Community Health Care Initiative (REACH) provides health-related accelerated learning and basic literacy training for women and girls. Training will take place in the Women's Centers and will target provinces with the highest maternal mortality rates such as Ghazni, Baghlan, and Badakhshan.

In April 2004, REACH graduated its first 25 midwives from the program, after they completed an 18-month program in Jalalabad. This pilot program is being replicated across Afghanistan. For each new midwife, the U.S. is supporting a lifetime of lives saved.

Afghan Family Health Book.
In Fall 2004, U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson initiated the roll-out of the "Afghan Family Health Book" across Afghanistan. This "talking book" provides useful and practical information about health practices and hygiene, focusing on health promotion and disease prevention.
The books are being distributed via hospitals, clinics, and women's. The project was developed with Leapfrog Enterprises Inc., a developer, designer, and manufacturer of technology-based educational products.

Education Fulbright Scholarships.
Five Afghan women were awarded Fulbright scholarships for the academic year 2004-2005 for advanced graduate-level study in the U.S. Women's Teacher Training Institute ($5 million).

In cooperation with USAID, First Lady Laura Bush announced a USAWC Initiative to establish a Women's Teacher Training Institute in Kabul in tandem with The Afghan Literacy Initiative, designed to help teach basic literacy to Afghan women in rural areas of Afghanistan.

The Institute opened in September 2004. The Institute's first program, Afghan Literary Initiative for 200 rural villages, is in progress.

Teacher Training.
In 2002, the USAWC initiated a teacher-training exchange to bring 30 Afghan women teachers to Nebraska every six months for training. In turn, these women will train other teachers in Afghanistan.

Adopt-a-school Program.
Church communities in Texas are providing their adopted school with supplies, textbooks, and training.

U.S. Leadership Management and Computer Education.
The Council's first major program, in September and October 2002, brought 14 women from various Afghan government ministries to the United States for an educational exchange program.
During their four-week stay, they received training in computer skills, proposal writing, communications, and leadership management.
Each participant received a laptop computer to use while training in the United States and to take home to use in Afghanistan.

The women met with President George W. Bush and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice at the White House, and with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell at a Department reception held in their honor. They also had the opportunity to interact with senior policymakers, Members of Congress, government agency officials, and representatives of non-governmental organizations.
In Austin, Texas, they studied the interaction among federal, state, and local entities. Their program concluded in New York City where the participants met with representatives of the United Nations.
See for International Women's Issues


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