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USAID Seeks to Empower Afghan Women

Despite the progress Afghanistan has made in regard to women’s rights since the end of the Taliban regime in 2001, the position of Afghan women in society is deplorable. Afghan women have won the vote and the opportunity for jobs and education, but there is much work to be done. Afghanistan is still a male-dominated culture, one that is rampant with forced marriages, cruelty, and violence against Afghan women.

Recently, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched the “Promote” program to further the position of Afghan women in society. With “Promote,” the U.S. will fund a $200 million program to empower women between the ages of 18 and 30 in Afghanistan. With expressed interest in assistance from Australia, Britain, Japan, and the European Union, the funding for this program could double. In addition to furthering women’s position in society, this program also seeks to engage in economic development in Afghanistan.

This five-year program, the largest of its kind to date, intends to help at least 75,000 women overcome the restraints on their true potential and attain economic and educational security. Rajiv Shah, head of USAID in Afghanistan, states that this program seeks to create 3,500 small businesses by providing women entrepreneurs with credit and microfinance to promote economic growth. Training will also be provided to women who want an active role in the economy so that women will seek out government and policymaking positions in higher numbers.

USAID’s Women in Government Internship Program over the last three years has provided training and placed more than 440 interns in Afghan government agencies. This program seeks to increase female representation in government to 30%. Currently less than 20% of government officials in Afghanistan are women.

If women are successful, Afghanistan will be successful, which is why Shah demonstrates that there must be progress on women’s role in Afghan society. If the withdrawal of U.S. forces after the Afghan presidential elections scheduled for 2014 results in the resurgence of the Taliban, women will continue to be undermined, and all developments in women’s rights issues may be lost. Shah urges that the opportunities for women to be successful must increase because their role in society is vital for poverty reduction efforts and economic development. It is now more crucial than ever to empower women, because after foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan, there will likely be a decrease in foreign assistance.

– Rahul Shah

Sources: Khaama, Washington Post, Al Arabiya, USAID
Photo: Women of Vision