LAGRANGE, Ohio — On August 31, 2021, President Joe Biden ended the war in Afghanistan via a withdrawal of troops. Lasting from 2001-2021, it was the longest war in American history. This conflict has had a disproportionate impact on Afghan women and girls. According to the Congressional Research Service, Afghan women lag behind Afghan men across development measures including education and income. In 2018, the average gross national income for Afghan women was $1,102 compared to $2,355 for men. However, the Protect Women’s and Girls’ Rights Act of 2021, may help advance women’s empowerment in the country.
S. 1642: Introduction, Purpose and Women’s Empowerment Impact
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the bill on May 13, 2021. The bill has received bipartisan support. Currently, Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Susan M. Collins (R-ME), John Cornyn (R-TX) and others have co-sponsored it.
The introduction of the bill stipulates that the Secretary of State submit a report on the status of Afghani women and girls in civil society, including organizations that “reflect community interests and deliver essential services.” These include the government, educational and health care institutions.
The sixth section of the bill outlines a policy to protect the rights of Afghan women and girls after the United States’ withdrawal. Additionally, six months after the law’s enactment, the Secretary of State must submit a report to four different committees: the Committee on Foreign Relations, the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate, the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Committee on Appropriations.
Entailed in the policy, the report specifies an assessment of women and girls’ conditions in civil society including their access to education, jobs, health care and comparative status with men in society. Furthermore, the policy requires an assessment of the assurances the Taliban made concerning women and girls’ rights.
This bill recognizes that women’s empowerment serves the United States’ primary interests of peace and economic progress. Thus, the policy ensures that the United States will continue to support the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan’s civil society.
Women’s Empowerment Organizations
Several women’s empowerment organizations are currently supporting Afghan women and girls. Two of these institutions include the Global Fund for Women and the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund. Four women founded the Global Fund for Women in 1987 to provide monetary support for “gender justice movements” and create long-lasting changes for women. The organization has responded to the crisis in Afghanistan on its website and encourages readers to take action via social media and political advocacy.
The Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund is a partnership between the United Nations and civil society organizations. Currently, it is supporting grassroots women’s empowerment organizations in Afghanistan that are sustaining their operations and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ways to Support Women’s Empowerment in Afghanistan
Currently, S. 1642 has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. To become a law, it must pass through the Senate and the House of Representatives. Finally, President Biden must sign it into law. The Committee on Foreign Relations must vote favorably for the bill for it to advance to the Senate floor.
While the bill is still in committee, there are ways for people to show their support. In the United States, one may contact state representatives and senators to express support for the act. One may also donate to women’s empowerment organizations and advocate for refugees in their local communities. While the social status of Afghan women is still quite precarious, S. 1642 provides a clear path forward for women in the country, advancing women’s empowerment in Afghanistan.
– Ozi Ojukwu