Press Release



Secretary-General Says Afghan Women’s Plight Had Been Affront to Humanity;

U.S. First Lady Emphasizes Her Country’s Long-Term Commitment, with Education Key

International Women’s Day was observed at Headquarters this morning with a televised event on the theme “Afghan Women Today:  Realities and Opportunities,” and included a video presentation on Afghan women, a panel discussion and addresses by, among others, the United Nations Secretary-General and the First Lady of the United States.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the commitment to Afghan women should redouble the determination to address the challenges millions of women and girls faced worldwide.  Special guest Laura Bush was an eloquent champion of Afghan women’s rights and a constant advocate of education as a way for girls and women worldwide to play a full role in life.  The plight of Afghan women had been "an affront to all standards of dignity, equality and humanity".  World support for reasserting their rights should go beyond expressions of solidarity.  It should take the form of concrete help to build schools to educate all about the right to a safe environment free of discrimination.

Laura Bush, First Lady of the United States, said the terrorist attacks of 11 September on her country had brought the role of Afghan women to world attention.  Afghanistan under the Taliban had been a sobering example of a society in which women were denied their rights.  The world was now helping Afghan women return to the lives they’d once known.  The United States commitment was long-standing and education was key.  To symbolize that, she had recently presented Hamid Karzai, the head of the Interim Administration in Afghanistan, with a children’s dictionary.

Han Seung-soo, (Republic of Korea) President of the General Assembly, called on donor countries to encourage the Interim Government to promote the rights of women and girls and guarantee girls equal access to education.  He said they should be full partners in the post-conflict reconstruction of the country and women should be the primary stakeholders in post-Taliban Afghanistan to identify priorities.  Most importantly, today’s celebration of Afghan women should renew the determination to advance the goals of equality for women everywhere.  That was in the best interest of all humanity.

Ole Peter Kolby, (Norway) the Security Council President, said the Security Council had expressed its broad support for the women of Afghanistan and for the Interim Government.  It had underscored the need for women to participate in the rebuilding efforts.  It had also stressed the need for the international community to provide security to the people of Afghanistan.  The Council recognized that more women needed to be involved in peace-related activities.  While progress had already been made, the Secretary-General would report later in the year with recommendations for further actions.

Following those addresses, the Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, Angela King, read out a statement sent from Afghanistan by the country’s new Women’s Affairs Minister, Sima Samar, who is also one of five Vice-Presidents in the Interim Administration.  In it, she said she hoped the international community would not forget Afghanistan, again.  Rather, she hoped it would renew its new promises and provide substantial relief and development assistance to help rebuild the economy and allow Afghan women and girls to rebuild their lives.

A discussion followed, with a panel composed of:  Queen Noor of Jordan, Sima Wali, President of Refugee Women in Development and delegate to the United Nations Peace Talks on Afghanistan; Othman Jerandi (Tunisia), the Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women; Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); and Julia Taft, the Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Questions to the panel were posed by representatives of four non-governmental organizations:  Women’s Development Programme for Afghanistan; Institute of Human Rights Communication of Nepal; Jane Addams Peace Society in Sierra Leone; and the Women’s Commission of Palestine.

Today’s event was organized by the Department of Public Information and the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, in collaboration with two United Nations agencies, the Inter-Agency Network of Women and Gender Equality and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).  Shashi Tharoor, Interim Head, Department of Public Information, moderated the event.

The United Nations has been observing 8 March as International Women’s Day since 1975, the International Women’s Year.  Women’s groups all over the world mark the event. 

The United Nations has been deeply involved in the Afghanistan situation for many years and in particular with the situation of women and girls there.  In January, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had issued a statement of solidarity with Afghan women, emphasizing that their participation as full and equal partners with men was essential for the reconstruction and development of their country.  Charlotte Abaka (Ghana), Chair of the Committee, read out the declaration during today’s event. 

Also noted was a joint declaration issued yesterday by three rapporteurs on women’s rights:  United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women; and the special rapporteurs on women’s rights of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.

Also in January, the head of the Interim Administration in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, signed the “Declaration of the Essential Rights of Afghan Women”, affirming the right of equality between men and women.  Two Ministries in the Interim Administration are headed by women, that of Women’s Affairs and Public Health. 

Opening Ceremony

Moderator SHASHI THAROOR, Interim Head, Department of Public Information, noted that the programme was being videocast to Vienna and across the world.  He underscored the fact that it was a day of solidarity with the women of Afghanistan, who had been oppressed, but who had now found new opportunities because of the strength and dignity with which they’d borne oppression.  He welcomed the United Nations dignitaries, the First Lady of the United States and Queen Noor to the celebration of Women’s Day.

KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the Day celebrating Afghan women this year belonged to all women the world over.  The commitment being shown to the cause of Afghan women should redouble the determination to address the challenges facing millions of women and girls worldwide.  Special guest Laura Bush, the First Lady of the United States, was an eloquent champion of Afghan women’s rights.  She was also a constant advocate of education for girls and women everywhere as a means for them to play a full part in life.

However, he said, of the 100 million-plus children not in school worldwide, the majority were girls, and of the 800 million-plus adults who could not read, the majority were women.  HIV/AIDS was spreading among women and girls at an intolerable rate.  In situations of violent conflict, they were often the first victims.  Violence against women was a worldwide epidemic and trafficking in them was the fastest-growing form of organized crime.  Women’s work continued to be undervalued, underpaid or not paid at all, while in almost all countries women were under-represented in decision-making positions.

Recalling the Millennium Declaration issued 18 months ago and the Security Council resolution passed that same year to recognize the vital role of women in peace and security, he said numerous studies had shown that women played a central role in every effective development strategy.  Benefits appeared immediately when women were fully involved.  Their children were better educated and healthier as well as better protected against AIDS and other diseases.  Incomes and economy improved at the family, community and country levels.  Similarly, while women must be protected from the impact of armed conflict, they were a key to the solution.  They must be included fully in strategies for peacemaking, peace-building and reconstruction.  Even beyond that, the Charter proclaimed the equal rights of men and women.  Every woman, wherever she lived, was entitled to the same human rights as every man.

The cost of ignoring that basic principle had been apparent in Afghanistan, he continued.  The plight of women there had been an affront to all standards of dignity, equality and humanity for many years.  Yet, those women had confronted deprivation and discrimination with courage and ingenuity.  Now they had won world support in reasserting their rights, especially in playing an active role at all levels of society in every stage of bringing peace and development to the country.  Afghan women in Kabul were marking this day with a national agenda for action agreed upon this week.  Their message must be heard, because they needed more than expressions of solidarity.  They needed concrete help to realize their potential.

More schools were needed and more teachers to ensure every Afghan girl’s right to education, he concluded.  Men needed to be educated about every woman’s right to a safe environment free from violence, discrimination and abuse.  And all must remember that the achievement of women’s rights, along with their advancement, benefited all.    

HAN SEUNG-SOO (Republic of Korea), President of the General Assembly, said the gathering today demonstrated the firm commitment of the United Nations to achieving gender equality and empowerment of women on all fronts, as well as to enabling them to realize their human rights.  The initiatives and leadership of Laura Bush, First Lady of the United States, was commendable in the area of promoting women’s rights and equal opportunity for them.

He said Afghan women were the focus of the Day because they had shown boundless patience, perseverance and courage during more than 20 years of armed conflict.  They had survived years of suffering and deprivation, exacerbated by the gender apartheid of a most brutal regime.  In post-Taliban Afghanistan, women should be the primary stakeholders, to identify their own priorities in all sectors of society.  The international community should encourage the Interim Authority to empower Afghan women as full partners in the post-conflict reconstruction of the country.  Donor countries should place high priority on promoting the human rights of women and girls, guaranteeing girls equal access to education.  Most importantly, the celebration of Afghan women should renew the determination to advance the goals of equality for women everywhere.  That was in the best interest of all humanity.

OLE PETER KOLBY, (Norway) President of the Security Council, said if there was no peace for women, there was no peace.  The Council stood ready to participate in all efforts to promote women’s rights and involve them in peace efforts, including post-conflict peacemaking.  Much progress had been made in that direction already.  A system-wide implementation agenda had been formulated and set up.  It acknowledged the need for the involvement of more women in peace-related activities, including their serving as observers.  The Secretary-General would be reporting later in the year on actions to be taken.

The Security Council had expressed its broad support for the women of Afghanistan and for the Interim Government, he affirmed.  It had underscored the need for women to participate in the rebuilding efforts.  It had also stressed the need for the international community to provide security to people in Afghanistan.  The Council supported Afghan women’s efforts, as it did those of women all over.  The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, who had signed the declaration yesterday with the other two rapporteurs, would be addressing the Council this very afternoon.

LAURA BUSH, First Lady of the United States, said she was here to voice her strong support for the courageous people of Afghanistan, who had suffered for years under the Taliban regime, and to thank the international community for its concern for women and families worldwide.  The terrorist attacks of 11 September had galvanized the international community; valuable lessons had been drawn from the tragedies.  People around the world were looking closely at the roles women played in their societies.  And, Afghanistan, under the Taliban, gave the world a sobering example of a country where women had been denied their rights and place in society.  Today, the world was helping Afghan women return to the lives they once knew.

She said that with opportunity came obligation.  Much work remained.  The United States’ current efforts reflected a long-standing commitment.  It was the largest and one of the longest continuous supporters of United Nations humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan and that would continue.  It had committed at least $1.5 million to help Afghan women work and support their families.  Many women were now heads of households, having lost their husbands during the 23 years of war.  In Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif, the United States was sending wheat to

21 bakeries run by widows, who earned a living and fed their own families.  Those bakeries helped feed one quarter of Kabul’s population, and more would be built.  The many other efforts included the American child-based effort to contribute

$1 each through America’s Fund for Afghan Children.

A major focus was on education, she said.  She recently presented Chairman Hamid Karzai with a children’s dictionary, which symbolized the importance the United States placed on education.  Prosperity could not follow peace without educated women and children.  Improvements in women’s education had contributed the most by far to the total decline in child malnutrition, and mothers with a secondary education had children with mortality rates nearly 36 per cent lower than mothers with only a primary school education.  In two weeks, Afghan boys and girls would be starting school –- many for the first time.  The world would be watching on that first day of school, as teachers took their long-vacant places and students opened their books.  Through a number of projects, her country was helping redevelop Afghanistan’s educational system. 

For example, she noted that the Academy for Educational Development just sent 40,000 backpacks handmade in Pakistan filled with slates, chalk, school supplies, and toys for refugee children.  [Displayed backpack].  Giving children books and an education gave them the ability to imagine a future of opportunity, equality and justice.  Education was the single most important long-term investment.  Today, on International Women’s Day, she affirmed the mission to protect human rights for women in Afghanistan and around the world.  She also affirmed her support of all Afghans as they recovered from war and injustice.  Dedication to respecting and protecting women’s rights in all countries must continue in order to achieve a peaceful, prosperous, and stable world.  Together, the United States and its allies, and the United Nations would prove that the forces of terror could not stop the momentum of freedom.

ANGELA KING, Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, read out a statement on behalf of SIMA SAMAR, Vice-President of the Interim Administration and Minister for Women’s Affairs in Afghanistan.  She said that as International Women’s Day was celebrated around the world, the future of women in Afghanistan had a long way to go.  Afghan women finally might be able to regain their rights, and the country might, at long last, have a chance for a peaceful, democratic future.  The “long darkness” for the women and girls of Afghanistan might finally be over.  But, reaching that goal required a lot of resources and support.  As Minister for Women’s Affairs, she hoped to be able to heal some of the wounds of Afghan women.  As always, the main losers in the foreign-backed wars in Afghanistan had been women and children.

She said that true reconstruction in Afghanistan required a plan for recovering and rebuilding the lives of Afghan women.  Without their participation in all spheres of life, development would not happen.  Since she took office on

22 December 2001, the Ministry for Women’s Affairs had been without an office for nearly two months.  The Ministry was merely a symbol, but symbolism would not solve the problems of Afghan women.  A peaceful, democratic Afghanistan in which the rights of women were restored, required security.  She hoped the international community would not forget Afghanistan, again.  Rather, she hoped it would renew its new promises and provide substantial relief and development assistance to help rebuild the economy and allow Afghan women and girls to rebuild their lives. 

Panel Discussion

SIMA WALI, President, Refugee Women in Development, said that, as an Afghan woman who had striven to bring peace and democracy to her shattered homeland, she was honoured today to be able to celebrate International Women’s Day.  For the past 23 years, she had anguished over how to explain the untold suffering, oppression, grief and outrage that the women of Afghanistan had endured.  Throughout that period, Afghan women had been subjected to the generalized horrors of war and the daunting and unending circle of violence, which had confronted everyone in Afghan society.  In a historically unprecedented way, women had become targets of a new kind of war. 

She said that the attacks against Afghan women had been so severe and draconian that a new term “gender apartheid” had been coined to describe the extent of the new kind of horror aimed directly at them.  The continuum of violence trapped Afghan women into what was often referred to in other contexts as the “feminization of poverty” and the “feminization” of forced migration.  The political, social and physical infrastructure of Afghan society had been ravaged and destroyed.  Deplorable human conditions had forced 12 million women to live in abject poverty.  Countless numbers had been forced into the worst kind of abuses, including prostitution and trafficking.  Average life expectancy for women was under 40 years, the mortality rate was 25.7 per cent for children under five years old, and the illiteracy rate for women was 80 per cent. 

Continuing, she said that maternal mortality and “TB” rates among women were unprecedented in the country’s history, placing Afghanistan among the most destitute, war-damaged countries in the world.  For the past two decades, the story had been about empowerment –- of the Communists by brutish force, and of the warlords by equally brutish force.  But, nowhere in that story was the empowerment of the Afghan people, in particular, the women, been given a place.  For more than 20 years, she had waged her own jihad for social justice and peace, as the rights of her Afghan sisters had been systematically violated.  Afghan women had suffered heinous crimes against humanity.  They needed diplomatic and financial leverage from the international community to assist them in their fight to reclaim their rightful place.  Building governance was vitally important, but creating conditions where extremism and terrorism could not find support was equally important. 

As a human rights activist, she had carried the shattered and muted voices of her Afghan sisters for nearly two decades, she went on.  Their voices had gone largely unheeded until the “grotesque arm of terrorism” first extended against them, had extended its arms to her country of exile, the United States.  Now, perhaps, there was hope.  At the United Nations peace talks, where she was one of three female delegates, a measure of success had been achieved towards negotiating the rights of Afghan women in the post-Taliban government.  In Bonn, she had pioneered the concept for the creation of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.  Since her return, however, she feared that women’s rights were threatened by partial solutions, rather than long-term engagement.  Her culture did not propagate violence, torture, or rape; her religion did not promote the bondage of women. 

Anything less than a total commitment from the world community to restore the rights granted to Afghan women was tantamount to discounting the needs and aspirations of 67 per cent of Afghan society, she said.  The brutish forces in Afghanistan could not be allowed to grow stronger for one more day.  Afghan society was in desperate need of peace and stability.  The Afghan women, as non-combatants, had declared their mandate to bring peace and stability to their homeland; they had waged their own non-violent jihad for social justice and peace.  Women were nurturers and builders, and not destroyers.  Their contributions as refugees and displaced persons to rebuilding and rehabilitation during the years of turmoil were a testament to their courage.  Fiercely dedicated to a vision of dignity, safety and freedom, their dream to participate in rebuilding their shattered lives and that of their nation depended upon the commitment of the world community to help make that dream a reality.  “Let us wipe the tears of a nation of women in pain,” she added.

Queen NOOR of Jordan, said the woman’s voice was critical in advancing the standard of life for all people the world over.  On 21 March, girls would return to Afghan schools for the first time in years, but much needed to be done in order to equip the schools to operate properly.  In proper schools, girls would learn that the Koran applies to them equally as to men.  To bring such developments about, governments could only do so much.  Non-governmental organizations needed to be recruited for delivering aid in a culturally sensitive manner.

How could the international community best help? she asked.  The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had pointed the way.  It had declared that the Afghan people needed to tell the world what they wanted.  Certainly part of their list would include concrete assistance in activities such as capacity-building and arrangements for the return of refugees. 

She said her country of Jordan had already devised a basic development needs package.  It approached quality of life issues in a comprehensive, integrated manner.  It took into consideration issues of health, education and participatory decision-making.  It promoted the establishment of productive activities from micro-credit projects to building fisheries.  All over the Middle East neighborhood, from Egypt to Somalia, implementation of the package led to social stability and cohesion.  Achieving such goals required broad international cooperation.  As the video had shown, the women of Afghanistan were crying out for concrete help to put their plans into place.  They’d been waiting too long.

OTHMAN JERANDI (Tunisia) Chairperson, Commission on the Status of Women, said that since 1998 the Commission had dealt with the situation of women in Afghanistan.  Since then, grave violations of the human rights of women and girls in all areas of the country, particularly those controlled by the Taliban, had been a source of serious concern.  As such, the Commission had urged all parties and, in particular, the Taliban, to act in accordance with international humanitarian law and human rights.  It had not only condemned those rights violations, but had also called on the international community to support Afghan women and give special attention to the protection of their human rights.  The Commission now had an unprecedented opportunity to support Afghan women, as they claimed their rightful place in reconstruction. 

He said that the Commission could work with other United Nations bodies to ensure that all actions to rebuild the country put it on a path to a gender-balanced sustainable peace and development.  Special attention should be directed to the promotion and protection of the human rights of women and girls there.  They should, once again, enjoy the right to work, education, security of person, freedom of movement and association, and freedom of opinion and expression.  Their access to health care was essential, as was their full participation in strategies to rebuild the country’s civil, cultural, economic, political and social life.  Their voices must be heard when priorities were set and resources were allocated. Women’s emancipation was fundamental to human development in all its dimensions.

THORAYA AHMED OBAID, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said Muslim women like herself were distressed to see people twist Islam to their own purposes.  The patriarchal system for which her religion provided was the same one that had given her the opportunity to be here in her capacity today.  The empowerment had begun with a loving father who had supported and encouraged her.  It had continued with King Faisal, who had given her the country’s first woman’s scholarship to the United States.  It had further continued with the Secretary-General, who had entrusted her with the present post, which enabled her to help other women.

At present, Afghan women needed concrete help in many ways, she said.  “Giving birth is a right of life”, she said.  “It should never be a sentence to death.”  Men and women in Afghanistan had overthrown the Taliban and its harsh restrictions.  Women had thrown off their burkas, but that didn’t mean they were automatically free.  It had been noted that it was hard to “coax Afghan women from their homes” to get them involved.  Women didn’t stay in their homes because they wanted to avoid the world, but rather because they needed to be safe.  The international community and UNFPA were ensuring their safety after many years of terrible oppression.

Airplanes were landing in Kabul right now, she said.  They were delivering medicines and medical personnel to educate women about their reproductive rights and to train midwives.  But while UNFPA could deliver help, it could not rebuild Afghanistan or its society.  As the world celebrated Afghan women and their empowerment, the Afghan women in Pakistan’s refugee camps should not be forgotten, nor should women elsewhere who needed UNFPA’s help in supporting a woman’s rights.  “Let’s close this chapter on the oppression of women”, she said. 

JULIA TAFT, Assistant Administrator and Director, Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that the Day was a reminder that Afghan women were not alone in their struggle to recover their dignity, human rights and full participation in society.  Human security was a major aspect of the United Nations’ work and one key role was to ensure that women’s rights were treated as human rights, whether in times of conflict or peace.  After 23 years of conflict, the vast majority of Afghanistan’s population was facing severe mental and physical trauma, poverty and unemployment.  Afghan women, at 20 million, numbered more than half the country’s population; more than 2 million of those were widows.  Maternal and infant mortality, health, sanitation, and education ranked among the worst in the world.

She said that before the Taliban seized power, Afghan women made up half of government workers, 70 per cent of schoolteachers and 40 per cent of doctors in Kabul.  In recent years, their denial of rights had decimated their ability to contribute to the economic, political and social fabric of society.  But, Afghan women had shown great resiliency and survival skills and were beginning to come forward to regain positions in civil services and elsewhere.  While the challenge of rebuilding the country was monumental, the re-establishment of physical security, the rule of law and effective health and education systems would profoundly strengthen social stability, while encouraging women’s reintegration.  Next year, UNDP aimed to increase female teaching staff and enrolment numbers in primary and secondary schools. 

Continuing, she said that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was printing and distributing textbooks and teacher training kits and the UNDP was supporting the Afghan Interim Authority by prepositioning the salary requirements for tens of thousands of teachers, many of whom were women.  The World Food Programme would be providing food for education, which was a powerful incentive to increase attendance.  Among its quick impact projects, the UNDP was undertaking the refurbishment of Kabul University and its dormitories, so that female students would have safe accommodations.  Also, UNDP and UNIFEM were collaborating to support the Women’s Ministry.  The UNIFEM’s Executive Director, Noeleen Heyzer, was in Kabul today leading a historic United Nations inter-agency support group in conjunction with the Women’s Ministry.  More than 50 Afghan women from different provinces would have the opportunity to speak with senior members of the Afghan Interim Administration. 

As caretakers of families and active community participants, Afghan women were well placed to identify critical needs and priorities for reconstruction and development, she said.  The UNDP was committed to using local institutions and giving Afghan women the tools and support to develop, promote and implement a system-wide agenda that built women’s capacities and leadership.  Through those efforts, the country’s reconstruction could be “engendered” in an effective and lasting manner, leading to its sustainable development.  The United Nations funds and programmes were dedicated to the goal of full participation of Afghan women in the economic, social and political landscape of the country; they steadfastly embraced Afghan women, whose journey towards equity and equality had finally begun. 

Question-and-Answer Session

SADOOZAI PANAH, Director of Women’s Development Programme for Afghanistan, a non-governmental organization, said that assistance for capacity-building for women and women’s organizations should be long-term.  Had the reconstruction programme for Afghanistan taken that into account?

Ms. TAFT said that at the donor’s meeting in Tokyo in January, needs assessments had been presented for 5, 10 and 15-year frameworks, with the idea that there were no “quick fixes”.  Donors responded with multi-year funding of $4.3 billion, but they were looking at longer-term horizons.  She added that the refugees, while in exile, had benefited greatly from a number of health, education and training programmes, thanks to the non-governmental organizations and United Nations partners.  She hoped they would find the confidence to return soon to Afghanistan and become contributors and mentors throughout the country. 

SHOBHA GAUTAM, Institute of Human Rights Communication of Nepal, a non-governmental organization, asked if women in Afghanistan were still facing cultural restrictions with respect to their involvement in the peace process and government administration, and if so, what was being done to help them?

Ms. WALI said that culture was being used as an argument to keep women subservient.  It was extremely important, therefore, that future male government officials be aware of gender roles and balance.  Women should seek issues of empowerment within their own cultural values.  It was also important that the country’s Constitution be developed in a way that guaranteed women’s rights.  Culture must no longer be used as an excuse to keep women subservient.

ISHA DYFAN, Jane Addams Peace Society of Sierra Leone, a non-governmental organization, said that in negotiating, there were always compromises.  Given the need for accountability with respect to human rights, in particular, women’s human rights abuses and in light of her own country’s experiences, how did Afghan women see negotiating on that issue if it arose?

Ms. WALI said that the Afghan women had asked that the perpetrators of such violence be held accountable.  Afghan women were looking at compromise to make sure they initially supported the Interim Authority and the future government, but legislation on accountability should be developed, as well as a Commission that could explore those heinous crimes.

MAHA MUNA, Deputy Director of Women’s Commission, Palestine, said that celebrating International Women’s Day was an opportunity to recall and support implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).  Refugee women worldwide, including Palestinians working with their Israeli sisters, Kosovars and Serbs, and Rwandan women, were working towards peace.   What lessons did Afghanistan’s women offer and how could that Security Council resolution support hopes for the future?

Ms. KING said that at the Brussels summit in December, 40 Afghan women had come together to produce a proclamation of priorities on health, education, refugees and human rights, and the constitution.  Thanks to UNIFEM Executive Director Noeleen Heyzer, everyone had gotten “a heads up” on the priorities

produced yesterday from the consultations.  Once again, Afghan women came from around the country to work together; they had highlighted disarmament, education, and the need for a special commission on women.  They also sought a strengthened Ministry for Women’s Affairs.

Ms. WALI added that, in order to rebuild the shattered lives of the Afghan people and their homeland, the support of the international community was needed. “We cannot do it alone,” she emphasized.  For too long, Afghanistan was seen as irrelevant to the larger issues of the world community.  She thanked everyone for their sustained and long-term support and engagement.

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For information media. Not an official record.