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Public Statements

Women's Action Public Affairs Team

Location: Washington, DC

WOMEN'S ACTION PUBLIC AFFAIRS TEAM -- (House of Representatives - July 11, 2005)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity tonight to address the positive effects which American foreign policy has had on the rights of women throughout the world.

As vice-Chair of the Congressional Women's Caucus and as Chair of the House International Relations Subcommittee on Middle East and Central Asia, I have witnessed U.S. efforts to support women across the globe, especially in post-conflict situations.

The progress is historic. Just ask the survivors of Saddam Hussein's regime and the Taliban. The Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq indiscriminately slaughtered all Iraqis, but the women were among the most vulnerable.

The notorious Fedayeen beheaded women in public and dumped their severed heads at their families' doorsteps. The regime used widespread rape to extract confessions from detainees. Saddam Hussein's legacy of terror knew no boundaries.

In assessing U.S. contributions to Iraqi women, I look to leaders such as Dr. Khuzai, who served as a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and National Council of Women. After being prisoners in their own country for 35 years, she said, for the Iraqi women, the morale is so high that you cannot understand it unless you go and see. We will be grateful forever.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit Iraq as part of a historic all-female congressional delegation. We met with women from all sectors and all educational backgrounds, and the message we heard from all of these women was very clear: They want a say, they want a role, they want to participate, and they want to have the U.S. help them in getting there.

To achieve this end, the United States is helping Iraqi women reintegrate themselves into Iraqi society and indeed to the outside world. The administration embarked on the Iraqi Women's Democracy Initiative to train Iraqi women in the skills and practices of democratic public life.

It also established the U.S. Iraqi Women's Network, helping to mobilize the private sector in the United States and to link important resources here to critical needs on the ground. Recently, we saw the fruits of our efforts as countless Iraqi women went to the polls.

U.S. efforts have contributed to a significant positive change in the lives of women in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, the Taliban's brutality and blatant disregard for the lives and well being of the Afghan people was perhaps most clearly evident among half of its population, the women of Afghanistan. Made widows and orphans by the will of the Taliban, they were banned from receiving any education past the age of 8, for which the curriculum was limited to the Taliban's corrupted version of the Koran.

In the year 2000, the United Nation's Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization estimated that as few as 3 percent of Afghan girls were receiving primary education. Today, it is thrilling to note that thanks to our U.S. efforts, Afghan women are active participants in their political future. More than 8 million Afghans voted in this country's first-ever presidential election, and 41 percent of them were women.

Hamid Karzai was announced as the official winner; and in his new cabinet appointments, he named three women as ministers. We as a Nation provided political and advocacy training for Afghan women and provided the funds to support voter registration and the election process.

One Afghan woman casting her ballot said, when you see women here lined up to vote, this is something profound. I never dreamed that this day would come. And through the Middle East Partnership Initiative, the United States is also helping to create campaign schools that provide leadership and organizational training for women seeking political office. With MEPI support, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute conducted the first of these political skills training courses for women from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

MEPI and the Government of Jordan hosted a workshop in Oman on Women in the Law in February of this year. Nearly 90 women from 16 countries in the Middle East and North Africa regions gathered to support the key issues affecting women in the legal profession and to develop plans for future collaboration.

At the end of the conference, MEPI announced that it would support two follow-up activities: The establishment of a regional association for women in the legal profession and a public legal education campaign on women's rights and equality. We must continue to strive forward in the pursuit of equality for women and develop on our own success.

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