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Members Discuss Plight of Afghan Women

On October 16, Members of the House held a special order to discuss the plight of Afghan women. “We hope tonight’s discussion will lead our leaders to the direction of providing humanitarian assistance to those families that are in need, particularly those women and those young girls,” stated Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA), who organized the special order. She was joined by several members of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues—Lois Capps (D-CA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and Co-Chair Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA). Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA), James Moran (D-VA), Connie Morella (R-MD), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) submitted remarks.

In discussing the history of women in Afghanistan, Rep. Solis noted that “prior to the civil war that propelled the Taliban to power, women in Afghanistan and especially the capital of Kabul were highly educated and employed,” adding: “Women in Kabul represented 70 percent of school teachers, 50 percent of the civilian government workers and they also were members of parliament, and 40 percent of them were represented as doctors and physicians. And at Kabul University, females comprised half of the faculty.”

Members also highlighted the restrictions placed on women by the Taliban when it came into power in 1996. “The restrictions on women’s freedoms in Afghanistan are unfathomable to most Americans. Women are banished from working. Girls are not allowed to attend school beyond the eighth grade. Women and girls cannot venture outside without a burqua which they are forced to wear….Women must be escorted by male relatives to be allowed to leave their homes. Women are not allowed to seek health care from male doctors, even in emergency situations,” stated Rep. Maloney.

Speaking in strong support of Afghan women, Rep. Capps said, “We stand in awe before the women of Afghanistan who are daring, even against all of these signs of oppression, daring to speak out, daring to gather the children together to teach, the young women, the girls, to offer them classes knowing that if they are caught, their lives will be ended.”

Rep. Millender-McDonald added, “We, as the women of this House, are destined to make sure that the wellness of women goes across the hue, goes across the waters, goes not only from this country but to Afghanistan and other countries throughout the world. We must make sure that we fight for those women.”

“We want every life that can be saved to be saved, and we know that our first partners in this effort will be the women of Afghanistan who know the price of life and the price of death,” stated Rep. Kaptur.

Rep. Jackson Lee agreed, “I think it is extremely important to note that the life and plight of women in Afghanistan has gone to its lowest level.”

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