The Future of Afghanistan Depends on Women and Girls

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OP-ED: The Future of Afghanistan Depends on Women and Girls​

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The Future of Afghanistan Depends on Women and Girls
Peter Duffy, Mission Director, U.S. Agency for International Development, Afghanistan

“I successfully completed my post education and returned home with new knowledge, more work experience, and an open-mind that led me to find my favorite job. This is all thanks to USAID’s Promote Scholarship Program.” That’s *Husnia, a young woman from Ghor.
In May 2020, Husnia earned a master’s degree in international relations. Today, she works as a legal counselor for a women’s empowerment organization in Herat. She also works as a part-time lecturer teaching law.
Across Afghanistan, we hear similar stories—stories that show the enormous progress made in gender equality and the rights of women and girls compared to just 20 years ago. Afghan women are doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, scientists, and government representatives. Today, more young women have improved access to quality education, many for the first time in their lives. They are also taking advantage of new opportunities to find decent work and have improved access to critical health services. Life expectancy among women has increased from 47 years to more than 60, and infant and maternal mortality rates have been reduced by more than half, in part due to an increased number of midwives and female health workers. Roughly one fifth of Afghan civil servants are women compared to nearly zero in the early 2000s. Today, women make up more than a quarter of parliamentarians.
Afghan women and girls are breaking barriers and inspiring others to take action. They have bravely stepped up—often at great personal risk—to call for a sustainable, just peace.
Women have been the driving force behind many of Afghanistan’s development achievements over the past twenty years; from gains in health and education to gender equality, agriculture, and economic growth. Afghanistan’s economic development depends on women contributing their skills and leadership in all aspects of society, including in government, business, and the social sector.
Gender equality and women’s empowerment are at the core of the Department of State and USAID’s work; from bolstering women’s participation in democratic processes and strengthening access to quality health and education, to creating sustainable economic opportunities and advocating for women’s rights.
In just the last 13 years, USAID has provided two-year scholarships to 11,500 women, giving them the opportunity to attend teacher training colleges. At the same time, three million Afghan girls have been enrolled in schools. We’re strengthening skills and improving market access for 15,000 female embroiderers in and around Kabul. And we work to ensure women’s meaningful participation in peacebuilding so that women play a leading role in shaping Afghanistan’s political, economic, and social future.
The United States will continue to work closely with the Afghan government, private sector, and civil society to robustly support constitutional protections and progress made, including in elevating women’s voices in the peace process.
Provided our partners can securely access project sites and their safety is not at risk, we plan to continue delivering development results across the country. Our humanitarian partners plan to stay and deliver assistance to those most in need, including women, girls, and other vulnerable communities, who are affected by conflict, natural disaster, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The future of Afghanistan depends on women and girls—just like Husnia. No current or future Afghan government can count on international donor support if the rights of women are restricted, neglected, or repressed. Women’s voices must be heard, and must be included in Afghanistan’s future.
*Name changed to protect her identity.

By U.S. Embassy in Kabul | 4 August, 2021

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