Secretary of State John Kerry, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former first lady Laura Bush gathered at Georgetown University Nov. 15 for “Advancing Afghan Women: Promoting Peace and Progress in Afghanistan.” They joined forces to speak to an overflowing Gaston Hall about the importance in continuing to support and assist the advancement of Afghan women.
The event kicked off with greetings from Georgetown University President John DeGioia, who showed a movie featuring real Afghan women sharing their success stories. The audience heard about girls having greater access to school than ever before and Afghan women becoming more prominent in the business world.
The video was followed by remarks by Clinton who, in addition to being a former first lady and former Secretary of State, is the U.S. Afghan Women’s Council honorary co-chair and a supporter of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace & Security.
Clinton spoke of the need for a society to engage all of its members. “Men and women are like two wings on the same bird,” she said. This became a reoccurring image throughout the program.
John Kerry, the 68th Secretary of State and supporter of the cause, took the stage after Clinton. He spoke of the many different levels of success that have been achieved in Afghanistan since 2001, and the terrible regression that would take place if efforts came to a halt. “What has been achieved is nothing less than remarkable,” he said. “It would have been more than a tragedy if the world ever allowed this progress to be threatened or, worse yet, to be abandoned.”
The crowd then heard from Anita Haidary, a young Afghan woman and co-founder of Young Women for Change. She spoke of growing up in Afghanistan, being an exchange student in California, her strides for change upon returning to her homeland, and the importance of advocating for Afghan women.
A conversation between Bush and Clinton then took place, moderated by Melanne Verveer, executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, and former U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues. Bush and Clinton both voiced worries about the future of Afghanistan. “I fear that once our troops leave,” said Bush, “the eyes of Americans will move away.” Bush and Clinton say they’re going to continue to spread the word and make sure that, when American troops leave Afghanistan in 2014, the Afghan women will not be abandoned.
The speakers, Kerry especially, made it clear that each person in Gaston Hall could make a difference in the futures of Afghan women. Assistance and advocacy are not limited to prominent political figures, and everyone can help to ensure Afghan women have access to education and other life-improving opportunities. “Our responsibility is clear,” said Kerry. “We need to make sure that they succeed… And making that happen is going to take every single one of us.”
The event was put together by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, the George W. Bush Institute and the Alliance to Support the Afghan People.