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Motion to Instruct Conferees on H.R. 4310, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. DAVIS of California. Mr. Speaker, I have a motion to instruct at the desk.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Clerk will report the motion.

The Clerk read as follows:

Mrs. Davis of California moves that the managers on the part of the House at the conference on the disagreeing votes of the two Houses on the Senate amendment to the bill H.R. 4310 be instructed to agree to section 1249 of the Senate amendment (relating to a plan for promoting the security of Afghan women and girls during the security transition process).

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 7 of rule XXII, the gentlewoman from California (Mrs. Davis) and the gentleman from California (Mr. McKeon) each will control 30 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from California.

Mrs. DAVIS of California. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Five years ago, I led a congressional delegation of female Members to Afghanistan on Mother's Day to visit our troops and meet with Afghan women, and I've continued to participate in this trip every year since.

On that first trip, we flew to Qalat in the southwestern region of Afghanistan and met the Provincial Reconstruction Team and the women of the village they worked with. Like much of Afghanistan, Qalat is rural and impoverished. The women we met had the same aspirations of women across the globe: they seek to send their children to school and a learn a trade in order to support themselves and their family.

During that first visit in 2008, the school headmaster told us stories of how acid was thrown into the faces of several female students who attended the school. These young girls overcame enormous challenges in coming to school every day, but their desire to learn surmounted the obstacles they faced. And there, just like at home, we heard these young girls talk of being doctors and teachers and anything else that they could dream of.

Each year, we have continued to visit the women of Qalat, and their message remains clear and consistent: they need security for themselves and their families if they are going to succeed.

During these visits, we have seen slow but steady progress being made as security in the area has improved. This year, during our visit, instead of talking about wanting the kids to come to school and being fearful that their parents would keep them at home, the school headmaster spoke about the 4,000 students who are coming to school each day and the need for additional desks and supplies. What a tremendous turnaround in such a short period of time.

But, Mr. Speaker, steep challenges remain for women in Afghanistan. Security, especially for women, has been at the heart of the problem that needs to be addressed as we transition responsibility to Afghan forces. Just this week, we had a reminder of those security concerns.

On Monday, the Director of Women's Affairs was killed in the Laghman province. She replaced the previous director, who was also assassinated just 6 months ago. It is heartbreaking to hear of these female leaders being assassinated in an area that is trying so hard to move their people and their country forward. A country cannot disenfranchise nearly 50 percent of their population while seeking to achieve a strong prosperous economy.

The language included in the Senate bill is a step in the right direction. So many organizations have been active in the transformation of Afghanistan, and I would encourage my colleagues at the Department of Defense and the Department of State to ensure that this is a multi-pronged effort. We must involve all the entities, not only here in the United States and Afghanistan, but also in Pakistan and India, where women there understand the daily challenges that Afghan women face, and create opportunities for these groups to work together. It is the least that we can do to support the women of Afghanistan and leave their country with a sustainable path for stability.

But, Mr. Speaker, this is more than the security of women and their ability to prosper in Afghanistan. It is also about our military servicemembers. Women on Provincial Reconstruction Teams have worked hard to help the women of Afghanistan, and members of the Female Engagement Teams have been tremendous role models for young Afghan children.

Our brave military men and women have sacrificed so much in Afghanistan, and to leave without the ability for continued security there would be a dishonor to all those who have served. We must ensure that the strides Afghan women and girls have achieved over the last decade do not erode.

Next year, I hope to visit Afghanistan again on Mother's Day. And I want to tell the women we meet with--again, the same group of women we have met with over the last number of years--that their security is important and that this Congress recognizes that importance.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to join me in support of this motion to instruct the House conferees and accept this language.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mrs. DAVIS of California. Mr. Speaker, I certainly want to thank Mr. McKeon for his leadership and for his remarks this morning because this has been a bipartisan trip, and I can say that we have many hours together on these trips. To experience it with the Afghan women and with our female troops particularly has been an incredible experience. And I particularly enjoy the support and the collegiality of my colleagues that Mr. McKeon referenced. It really has been very meaningful to all of us, and I look forward to continuing trips.

I now want to yield 3 minutes to Ms. Tsongas of Massachusetts. Ms. Tsongas has been with us on those trips, and I know she will share some of her experiences, as well.


Mrs. DAVIS of California. Mr. Speaker, as I said, I'm certainly prepared to close, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I want to again thank my colleague for his kind words. It has been an honor and a privilege to be part of this and to have worked with our female troops, all of our troops, of course, in Afghanistan, but to see the difference that they're making. There is an approach that they have, and it seems to work. They are able to bring people along and actually make the situation safer for the families and the community in which they are serving.

I want to thank everyone who spoke today, and I also certainly want to thank everyone who has traveled on this particular trip. This is an important motion to instruct. It defines something just as basic as ensuring the mobility of women within their own country.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.


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