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First Lady: Power of Freedom Is Evident Across Afghanistan

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2005 – The U.S. government, first lady Laura Bush said today during her visit to Kabul, Afghanistan, "is wholeheartedly committed to the full participation of women in all aspects of Afghan society - not just in Kabul, but in every province."

Bush, once a schoolteacher and librarian, spoke at the new Women's Teacher Training Institute. She spent about six hours in Kabul where she also met with President Hamid Karzai and groups of Afghan women.

The teacher's training center and adjoining dormitory, she noted, came about as a result of the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council telling the administration in 2003 that "there was a dire need for teachers" in Afghanistan, especially in the country's more remote and rural areas.

Bush said the new training facility, a public-private partnership, "will allow women to come from every corner of the country and have a safe place to stay and study, so that they can return home and share one of life's greatest gifts with their communities - the gift of an education."

Afghanistan had traditionally barred its women from attaining leadership roles and positions of societal and political heft. Yet, four years since fall of the ultra-traditionalist Taliban, Bush noted that Afghan women "have taken on leadership roles as teachers, students, doctors, judges, business and community leaders, and politicians."

The new teacher's institute "will yield great things," Bush predicted. Its establishment, she noted, represents a symbol of "the extraordinary leap forward Afghan women have taken."

Bush pointed out that Afghanistan is "only a few years removed from the rule of terrorists, when women were denied education and every basic human right." The Taliban regime has been replaced "by a young democracy," she observed, noting "the power of freedom is on display across Afghanistan."

Bush also announced that the United States is supporting the establishment of the American University of Afghanistan, with an accompanying multiyear commitment of more than $15 million.

The new university "will aggressively reach out to young Afghan women," she said, and "will provide a modern facility with an international faculty to educate future leaders" of Afghanistan.

Bush noted that another education initiative, the International School of Afghanistan, "will provide Afghan children from kindergarten through high school with a first-rate education." She said $3.5 million has been earmarked to establish the school.

Another initiative targeted to assist Afghan women, called "Learning for Life," Bush said, will address the critical needs of literacy and healthcare. The program, she noted, "will help people learn to read with materials that are focused on health."

The teacher's training facility, the university start-up and the reading and health initiative, Bush said, represent "significant" Afghan education projects that will involve a total of $80 million in funding.

These projects "signify the bond between the American and Afghan people," Bush noted, and reflect a shared vision for the future.

"That dream is of a prosperous, peaceful, and above all, a free Afghanistan, where both men and women stand upright in equality," she concluded.

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