Salaam and hello to everyone from Washington! Let me begin by expressing my sincere congratulations on the launch of the Promote program--I wish I could be there to celebrate with you today. Administrator Shah, our Embassy Team in Kabul, and everyone who worked so hard to make this a reality--you should all be proud of this accomplishment.
I also want to thank the Afghan government for the support you provided during the development of this project and for your commitment to building the next generation of Afghan women leaders. At this exciting time in Afghanistan’s history, we look forward to working with you to ensure that the gains made since 2001 are not only solidified, but expanded.
The fact is there is so much to be proud of. In 2001, Afghanistan had fewer than 500 functioning health facilities; today there are more than 2000. As a result, more than 60 percent of the population lives within a 1-hour walking distance of a health care center. Female literacy has seen meaningful increases and today more than 4 million girls are attending school--a remarkable achievement given that virtually no girls were in school in 2001. Life expectancy for women has risen from 44 years in 2001 to an astonishing 64 years today. And women are taking on more substantial roles in law enforcement and the Afghan National Security Forces.
But there is clearly more to be done to ensure that women have every opportunity to play an equal role in helping to chart Afghanistan’s next steps. Afghanistan’s future security and stability depend on it.
As the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, I have the great honor of traveling to countries throughout the world to meet with girls, women, and men about the role of women in their societies. One thing is always immediately clear--those countries where women share equal rights with men and are fully empowered to participate in their communities do better on every front—including enjoying greater security, political stability and economic prosperity.
For us to see this take shape in Afghanistan, women have to be at the table--and in even greater numbers. It is essential that women hold elected office and leadership positions at the highest levels, and to participate in all aspects of Afghan life.
The U.S. government and the many dedicated members of the international community--working in tandem with the Afghan government--have already done so much on this front.
In particular, there has been incredible work done to expand women’s participation in the Afghan economy and create entrepreneurial opportunities; to increase the participation of women in the judiciary, particularly women judges; to expand the number of women and girls in school, including as female teachers; and at an even more basic level--to ensure that every Afghan woman knows she has the right to be heard. That progress was evident in the significant number of women who voted in Afghanistan’s recent election, which led to the first democratic transition of power in Afghanistan’s history.
This is exactly what Promote is about--it’s about a commitment to doing everything we can to help the Afghan government continue to build momentum for women and especially the next generation of women leaders. We are so proud to have the opportunity to be a part of that.
Congratulations again to all of you, and particularly to the brave women of Afghanistan who have already done so much for your country, and to the girls following in your footsteps who will become the leaders of tomorrow.
Thank you all.