Often in the news for its ongoing bloody conflict, Afghanistan has now made headlines for a much different reason. In early November, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) invested $216 million in developing Promote, a program that focuses on the training, promotion and education of over 75,000 Afghan girls that will lead to a greater contribution from women in the country’s development. The million dollar investment has made Promote one of the largest women’s empowerment programs supported by USAID.
The five-year plan consists of four parts that aim to “improve women’s rights groups, boost female participation in the economy, increase the number of women in decision-making positions within the Afghan government and help women gain business and managerial skills.” Program planners will seek out women ages 18-35 who have had at least a secondary education to enroll in Promote. USAID is also seeking another $200 million commitment from additional donors that will assist them in their objectives.
Both President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah attended the launch of Promote in Kabul, along with USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah. The men were keen on giving women more power and voice in government decisions and wanted to continue the extraordinary progress Afghan women have made since the collapse of the Taliban regime in the early 2000s.
U.S. Ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues Catherine Russell has acknowledged this progress and emphasized that women must be even more present “at the table” and in greater numbers. First Lady Rula Ghani also added that Promote should not only reach out to women in urban areas, but also the young girls in Afghanistan’s many provinces.
With help from USAID, Afghan women have already made vast improvements in health, education and empowerment. Maternal mortality has reduced exponentially leading to a 20-year increase in life expectancy and the number of girls in school is much higher, compared to 2002 when there was virtually none present. USAID hopes that Promote will continue encouraging and empowering women in Afghanistan, key components that are essential to the country’s own economic prosperity and national security. Or, as Dr. Shah puts it, “by investing in women as champions for development, we can advance peace and broad-based growth across Afghanistan.”
– Leeda Jewayni