Ambassador Melanne Verveer: "Our commitment to women in Afghanistan must not wane"

Melanne Verveer

Melanne Verveer was appointed Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues by President Barack Obama. In her capacity as director of the Department of State’s new office on Global Women’s Issues, Ambassador Verveer coordinates foreign policy issues and activities relating to the political, economic and social advancement of women around the world. She mobilizes concrete support for women’s rights and political and economic empowerment through initiatives and programs designed to increase women’s and girls’ access to education and health care, to combat violence against women and girls in all its forms, and to ensure that women's rights are fully integrated with human rights in the development of U.S. foreign policy. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Women’s Foreign Policy Group, and numerous other organizations.

In her message to women parliamentarians of Afghanistan, Ambassador Verveer stresses out the need to grow women's leadership capacity in all areas of political participation and decision making. "The future stability and prosperity of Afghanistan depend in large part on the degree to which women will have an active role in rebuilding the civil society" says Verveer.

“Given the historical elections that took place on September 18th and the fact that over 400 women run for Parliament, we know that you are at a historic juncture, ensuring that women continue to be effective parliamentarians and that you work with your colleagues to benefit all Afghans, men and women, boys and girls. You will make such a difference!

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the UN Fourth World Conference on Women that took place in Beijing. There was a platform for action that was adopted by my country and 188 other countries. This ambitions blueprint for women’s global progress has served as a call for action on so many important fronts: advancing women’s access to education and health, the right to be free from violence and the opportunity to participate fully in the economic and political lives of countries. The platform for action underscores: “without the active participation of women and the incorporation of the prospective of women at all levels of decision making, goals for equality, development, and peace cannot be achieved”.

It is also ten years since the UN Security Council adopted the Resolution 1325 that links women with peace and security and recognizes the important role women must play in conflict resolution, peace negotiations and peace building if the peace is to be sustained. That resolution was adopted in order to increase women’s representation at all levels of the process of conflict resolution. In this anniversary year it is imperative that we and the international community accelerate its implementation, and in areas of conflict, post conflict and transition countries, we need to ensure that women gain the skills and access to opportunities, to fully participate in the peace processes and political transitions. We know that in Afghanistan, women have been so committed to building their democracy, exercising their right to vote and run for office and they do so, sometimes at great peril, often risking their lives.

In the last year and this year elections, there were more women running for election than even the quota positions allocated to them. They were willing to make a sacrifice to run for office because it is their hope that they can help make life better in their communities, and in their countries. They refuse to be victims! There are numerous capable Afghan women, risking their lives every day, working alongside the men to create a better future for their country. They do not want to be seen as victims but as the leaders that they are.

Today investing in women as at the heart of the foreign policy of my country because we know that women’s participation is so essential to addressing the challenges we face as nations and as a community of nations. We are working hard to implement policies and programs to grow women’s leadership capacity in all areas of political participation and decision making. Women who are included in the political processes need to have an active role in that process, and that includes peace process and post conflict efforts and this is why we have invested in policies and programs to grow women’s leadership and effectiveness and capacity in all areas, both in political participation and civil society participation. Nowhere is this more critical than in Afghanistan. In President’s Obama State of the Union address, he declared that the US policies in Afghanistan reflect our own policies, which include support for universally recognized human rights. At the London conference earlier this year, Secretary Clinton unveiled the Afghan Women Action Plan which incorporated our US-Afghanistan efforts for stabilization. And it is an example of how women are central to human rights and security goals in Afghanistan. The plan includes initiatives focused on women security, leadership in the public and private sector and women’s ability to take advantage of the economical opportunities.

The Afghanistan and Pakistan regional stabilization strategy recognizes that women are agents of change and it underscores their importance to efforts to strengthen Afghan communities’ capacity to withstand the threats posed by extremism. It establishes women’s empowerment as critical to unleashing the full economic potential of the Afghan people. The future stability and prosperity of Afghanistan depend in large part on the degree to which women will have an active role in rebuilding civil society, an active role and voice in their nations’ political processes. To reach that level of participation, women need to be included in the political process at all levels in parliament, in civil servants’ positions, in peace process, in local government. In recent months the role of women in reintegration and reconciliation has been of paramount importance in discussion.

Earlier this year secretary Clinton made clear at the London conference that the re-integration of former Taliban can only take place if they reject violence, renounce Al Qaida and accept the Afghan constitution, including the commitment to protect women from violence and oppression, and insure that women are fully participating and have access to education. We know that Afghan women want a process that promotes peace in their country; they want to see an end to the conflict, but they also want to have a voice in the decision making about their future and the future of their country.

The United States has advocated for Afghan women’s civil society’s own recommendations to include at least 25% women in the consultative Peace Jirga that took place in June 2009 as well as in the follow-on consultations at all levels, especially at the district and provincial level. We have provided key support for provincial council candidates, parliamentarians, civil society representatives.

We are supporting political development programs to train female parliamentarians and their staff, supporting civil society organization to provide civic education in order to increase the participation of women and youth in the electoral process. Under our USAID initiative to promote Afghan civil society, we are committed to allocating at least 50 percent of the grants to female-led or female focused organizations. The challenges that remain are significant but our commitment to the women of Afghanistan must not wane. We are working together to ensure that women continue to be included in the ongoing reintegration process, represented on the High Peace Council. At the international conference in Afghanistan on Afghanistan that took place earlier this year in London, Secretary Clinton emphasized that women need to be involved at every step of the way in a process of building Afghanistan’s future. If a peace process is to endure, women need to have a voice in the decision making of the future of their country. There can be no progress in Afghanistan or in any other part of the world, without the progress of women.

We will continue to work with each and every one of you, with all of you in Afghanistan and with our international colleagues who are so engaged in supporting you. We don’t do this as a favor to the women, although women need every opportunity, but we know even more that if women do not get these opportunities, do not get to fulfill their potential, do not get to participate, the future of Afghanistan will not be what it can and must be, nor will any potential for peace be sustained. I assure you, our ongoing commitment to work together with you and our partners so that you can continue to work to build the kind of Afghanistan that we all want to see, the kind of Afghanistan that will create a better life for all the people in your country”.


To listen to Ambassador Melanne Verveer's speach, please click here.

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