The July 20, 2010, Kabul Conference, hosted by the Government of Afghanistan and co-chaired by the United Nations, brought more than 70 officials from governments and international organizations around the world together in Kabul for the first time in thirty years. Together, they launched the “Kabul Process,” which reflects the Afghan Government's commitment to the people of Afghanistan, and to the international community, toward ensuring good governance, security for its people, and greater accountability, including clear benchmarks and milestones for an Afghan-led strategy to improve development.
Secretary Clinton and Lady Ashton, European Union Foreign Minister, met with Afghan women leaders to listen to their concerns. Secretary Clinton recognized the heroic work the women are doing to strengthen their communities and country, and reiterated the United States Government's commitment to ensuring that women are directly involved in all aspects of Afghanistan's development.
At the end of the meeting, Secretary Clinton also expressed U.S. intentions to work with the Danish government to improve women's access to justice in Helmand province. The joint initiative will target two priority areas: women's right to justice, and strengthening rule of law and civil society at the provincial level. Following her meeting, the Secretary emphasized the importance of President Karzai's statement that the rights of women, Afghan ethnic groups, and civil society “will not be sacrificed” in the course of reintegration. She reiterated that “building a strong, prosperous, and peaceful Afghanistan cannot be done without the full participation of women and girls.”
The U.S. Government supports the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA), which calls for the promotion of women's economic participation, increases in women's employment opportunities, and a greater role for non-governmental organizations and civil society groups, including religious leaders, in carrying out public awareness campaigns on health and women's rights. At the conference, Secretary Clinton expressed continued support for these measures, and announced several new programs that the United States will fund to support Afghan women and families. These include a $37 million program focused on maternal and child health, which will nearly double the number of midwives in the next four years and increase the number of female community health nurses. The program will support health advocacy campaigns featuring leadership roles for religious and community leaders: in the coming months, the campaign will provide outreach and training to more than 700 religious leaders throughout Afghanistan who will in turn reach over 600,000 individuals in their local communities. The Ambassador's Small Grants Program, which I announced with Ambassador Eikenberry in July 2009, will also be expanded to include all 34 provinces in the country. This program gives small grants to local Afghan-led organizations working to improve the lives of women and girls, not only in the field of health but also education, economic opportunity, equal access to justice, and political advocacy.
Secretary Clinton ended her remarks at the conference by noting that protecting women's rights during the peace and reconciliation process is a concern for Afghan women, the international community and the United States. “If women's groups are fully empowered to help build a just and lasting peace, they will help do so,” she said. “But if they are silenced and pushed to the margins of Afghan society, the prospects for peace and justice will be subverted.”