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Public Statements

Motion to Instruct Conferees on HR 4310, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. TSONGAS. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this motion to instruct.

As we have heard, this motion supports bipartisan Senate language that would help promote the security of Afghan women and girls.

Since becoming a Member of Congress, I have had the honor of visiting Afghanistan four times, several with the Mother's Day trips that Chairman McKeon referenced. I have been fortunate on those trips to visit in particular with some of our military moms who are serving in Afghanistan. These are female soldiers who have children back home, leaving them for months on end. Thousands of soldiers, men and women, go without seeing their family and loved ones for months on end, highlighting the extraordinary commitment that accompanies military service. This service and commitment is something that we take home with us as we learn from them and from their stories. These servicemen and -women have made very personal sacrifices for the people of Afghanistan.

The ever increasing participation of women in our military demonstrates the important contributions women are making to our effort in Afghanistan and around the world. It also stands in stark contrast to the involvement that Afghan women are able to have in their country's public life. One of the most important observations and lessons that I have learned during this trip, as well as the others, was that if this country is to become more stable and secure, women must be included in Afghan society and government.

Several years ago, I visited a school where over 1,000 young Afghan girls cycled through each day of all ages, very young, up to high school. When we asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up, the answers we heard were doctor, lawyer, teacher, even journalist. These are exactly what so many of our own young daughters hope to achieve. These young women felt optimistic about opportunities that were previously unheard of for women in Afghanistan and represent a future of promise for this country. We should take great pride in the work that we have done to elevate their sight lines. Ensuring that these young girls continue to have access to these opportunities and more broadly ensuring that women are able to participate in Afghan society as a whole is not only good for the future of Afghanistan, it is good for the United States, as well, so that we can help ensure a more peaceful and just future there.

On Monday, we were starkly reminded of the tenuous position of women in Afghanistan when the acting head of women's affairs in an eastern province was assassinated as she traveled to work. It also reminds us of their extraordinary courage as they take advantage of the opportunities and seek to be full participants in their country's lives. As we reduce our military presence in Afghanistan, the United States must be cognizant of how we will make sure that women continue to have a seat at the table and the nascent gains for them are not abdicated.

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Ms. TSONGAS. The bipartisan language in the motion before us would require that the Department of Defense produce a plan to promote the security of Afghan women and girls as it withdraws from the country. It would encourage the recruitment of women as members of the security forces. In fact, several years ago, we met with young women who were being trained to be helicopter pilots and required the Department of Defense to report back on its progress toward meeting these goals.

I strongly urge a ``yes'' vote on the motion and am so pleased to see our chairman's support for it.

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