Juanita Millender-McDonald

Afghanistan Freedom Support Act of 2002 - May 16, 2002

Juanita Millender-McDonald
May 16, 2002— U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC
Congressional floor speech
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Mr. Speaker:

Today, we bring to conclusion an unrivalled bi-partisan process in support of war-weary Afghanistan. We are about to vote on this important measure that will provide material resources to support the re-building and reconstruction of a country that has touched the popular imagination over the past year.

As Democratic Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Women's Issues, I am proud to add my voice in support of this defining bill. It cannot come too soon to help the Interim Administration as it moves forward to the next stage of instilling a spirit of sound governance in Afghanistan.

When the Loya Girga Assembly meets in June, the provisional government will begin setting out the key principles of the rule of law that can help bring about stability and security where even now, disorder and ethnic conflict too often prevail.

At least 160 women will be instrumental in playing a central role in this Assembly. It may not be enough, but it is a start. As I stated on the House Floor in December, "the future of women in Afghanistan, and ultimately the stability of any provisional settlement will rest upon a foundation of inclusion, not exclusion."

Mr. Speaker, the comprehensive package of assistance before us today for final passage affirms the important aspirations being sought by Afghanis both inside and outside of that country. Helping Afghan women to regain their rightful place in national life is one of the best ways I know to combat terrorism in Afghanistan; and to lessen the sense of peril of the global community everywhere.

This historic bill also specifically calls for providing resources to the Ministry for Women's Affairs to ensure that the Ministry can carry out its responsibilities for legal advocacy, education, and vocational training.

I am pleased to have authored this provision, and to have had the cooperation of my distinguished colleague and fellow Californian, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, in this successful effort at the House International Relations Committee mark-up last month.

Afghan women must be assured of their basic human rights once more; to gain access to safe drinking water and sufficient food; to receive decent health and maternal care; and, foremost, to again move freely in their society without being subject to harassment and abuse.