Senator Boxer: Supporting Afghan Women and Girls   

Tuesday, March 2, 2010  

Dear Friend:

I recently joined Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) in chairing a joint hearing of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women’s Issues and on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs. The hearing was titled “Afghan Women and Girls: Building the Future of Afghanistan.”

I strongly believe that the protection of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan and their full participation in society is essential to the reconstruction of a stable and democratic country.

I am pleased to share with you my opening statement from the hearing.

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator


Barbara Boxer, US Senator, California
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer


Good afternoon. Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Democracy, Human Rights and Global Women’s Issues, and the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs meet to examine the status of women and girls in Afghanistan.

I would like to extend my gratitude to Senator Casey for holding this joint subcommittee hearing with me today, and to our ranking members—Senators Wicker and Risch.

I’d also like to express a warm welcome to our distinguished witnesses.

It goes without saying that the women of Afghanistan have borne the brunt of the war, violence and tragedy that has plagued Afghanistan for decades.

Under the Taliban-led government, women were shut out of virtually all aspects of public life, largely denied the opportunity to hold a job or to seek medical care, and prohibited from receiving an education.

But over the past few years, Afghan women have made important progress. Today, millions of Afghan girls are enrolled in school, Afghan women are serving in Parliament, and many Afghan women business leaders are contributing economically to the future of the country.

But this progress is at risk as Afghan President Hamid Karzai moves to reintegrate elements of the Taliban into local and national politics and society through a process called reconciliation.

It is critical that Afghan women play a meaningful role in any reconciliation process so that women’s rights and freedoms are guaranteed.

As aptly stated in the Administration’s recently released Action Plan for Afghan Women and Girls, “women’s empowerment is inextricably linked to security, economic opportunity, effective governance, and social development. It is a simple fact that no country can prosper if half its citizens are left behind.”

I could not agree more.

Our first witness today is the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer. As many of you know, Ambassador Verveer is a tireless champion for women around the globe. For more than 16 years in both governmental and non-governmental roles, she has traveled to dozens of countries, first as an Assistant to President Clinton and Chief of Staff to First Lady Hillary Clinton, where she worked to make women’s issues an integral part of our foreign policy and helped create the President’s Interagency Council on Women.

Before becoming the Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, Ambassador Verveer served as the Co-founder, Chairwoman, and Co-Chief Executive of Vital Voices, a non-governmental organization that identifies, trains, and empowers emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs around the globe.

I know Ambassador Verveer cares deeply about Afghan women, having traveled to Afghanistan as one of her first official acts after becoming Ambassador last year. In particular, she played a key role in helping to bring Afghan women to the table at the recent London Conference on Afghanistan.

I am particularly pleased to see that the State Department just today issued a revised version of its Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy. Shortly after the original version was released in January, I wrote to President Obama expressing concern that the document only made one small reference to Afghan women. The new document released today rightly includes women throughout the entire strategy.

We will then hear from Mr. James Bever, the Executive Director of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Task Force at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Previously, Mr. Bever served as the USAID Mission Director to the West Bank and Gaza Strip from 2004-2006. From 2003-2004, he was the USAID Mission Director to Afghanistan.

Thank you both for your service to our country. We look forward to your testimony.

Before I turn to Senator Casey for any comments he may have, I would like to welcome our second panel witnesses—Sima Samar and Rachel Reid—who have traveled all the way from Afghanistan to be with us today.