US launches new initiative to support Afghanistan’s women

Afghan women’s protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, August 19.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday opened the Alliance for Afghan Women’s Economic Resilience, a partnership between the State Department and Boston University aimed at advancing Afghan women’s entrepreneurship and educational opportunities and expanding workplace opportunities, both in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

“Women, no matter where they live, should have equal rights in every facet of their lives,” Blinken said. “Equal opportunities to study, to work; equal access to financial resources; and they should enjoy the same freedoms as everyone else to travel, to express themselves, to choose their own paths.”

“This should be, in the year 2022, self-evident to everyone on this planet. But of course, it’s not, and we have to fight for it. We have to struggle for it every single day,” Blinken added.

Blinken said that Since taking power, the Taliban have severely restricted women’s rights in Afghanistan, turning back two decades of progress that Afghan women themselves built with the support of the international community.

He added that women could contribute $1 billion to Afghanistan’s economy if they were simply allowed to.  They could provide lifelines for families facing poverty; they could help create more stable, more resilient communities at a time when those are desperately needed in Afghanistan.

“The Taliban have denied women freedom of movement. They’ve banned girls from secondary school classrooms. They’ve prohibited women in the workplace,” Blinken said.

Rina Amiri, US Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls and Human Rights, said the initiative would face a lot of challenges.

Instability, a lack of security and financial chaos will weigh on any attempts to support women’s re-entry into Afghan society, she said.

“What we want to show is that there’s resilience,” she added.