With the recent announcement that all US troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, amidst a peace process that is breaking down, many uncertainties lie ahead, and the sense of anxiety and concern among Afghans, and those who care about the future of Afghanistan are palpable.
One thing is certain in these uncertain times: CW4WAfghan will continue delivering programs that promote and protect the human right to education. Our message to our supporters is clear: We are staying the course and continuing to support and work to ensure the gains made in Afghanistan.
We, too, are concerned. But our commitment to Afghanistan is steadfast and our determination to stand with Afghan women and girls, continuing to provide life-changing programming, is resolute. We are not going anywhere. In fact, our work and our voices are needed now more than ever. We are prepared for whatever developments the coming months may bring, and we will be ready to pivot programming.
While the US Government and the Taliban have failed to ensure that human rights and the significant gains made in the past 20 years are not bargained away in negotiations, there is a growing movement of international and Afghan civil society uniting in their resolve that the rights of the women and girls of Afghanistan, must be safeguarded, at all costs.
"More crucially, and to the question of "what's the use?", the answer to that question is right in front of us! Afghan women have a voice, and it's through your efforts in the last 20 years to support and amplify their voices that their message has become so very loud and clear. The idea of negotiating with the Taliban seems outrageous, but Afghan women are ready for this fight. We must be ready to fight alongside them. Now is not the time to doubt a process that is clearly working. Could we have imagined the Taliban entertaining the notion of even one woman in the room 20 years ago?"
--Laila Rashid, Chair, Board of Directors, CW4WAfghanIn
In such a short time, Afghan women have not only regained the losses they suffered under the Taliban's regime, but they have positioned themselves to protect those gains from being lost once again. This was their effort, but the contributions of our donors and the work of organizations like ours has had a direct and measurable impact on facilitating that effort. Over the years, with support from people like you, CW4WAfghan has trained more than 10,000 teachers, provided literacy classes for nearly 5000 students, many of whom have successfully transitioned to formal education, distributed nearly 300 school library starter kits, 40 community libraries established, 262 science labs and shared 1000s of resources every day through our Darakht-e Danesh Digital Library. This progress is measurable and powerful in the fight for gender equality.For every girl who graduated from school, for every teacher certified, for every young woman who accessed university thanks to a scholarship, for every woman who learned to read, we -- the CW4WAfghan community -- have increased our forces by one more in this fight against ignorance. As a result, the number of empowered women and girls in Afghanistan who are unwilling to go back is now in the millions. Those are fairly good odds in our favor.
"David Rothkopf has said that 'the systematic, persistent acceptance of women's second-class status is history's greatest shame.' The world must be united to end this shame. The struggle for women’s rights is the most important social movement of our times. This is a struggle that is universal, or it is nothing. We must speak out in defense of the rights of Afghan women as vigorously and as passionately as we defend our own rights. This battle is a hard one. It will not be won overnight. And it will not be won if we let up, quiet down and acquiesce to the Taliban. We must continue to yell, side by side with Afghan women, in their darkest hour."
--Lauryn Oates, Executive Director, CW4WAfghan
All this to say: all these years of effort have yielded very real results and this progress is now undergoing its first real test. Continued support is in fact more important now that ever. In the face of the Taliban re-gaining political legitimacy, if women's equal rights in Afghanistan are preserved through this process, then those rights will gain a level of permanence that cannot be taken away.
"We are a generation of war, who were born in war and lived a life in violence, bloodshed, struggle, restrictions, and frustration -- awaiting the moment when the war ends! Our long-held desire for peace faced another catastrophe. The peace talks started and there are efforts to make it possible at any cost. We, Afghan women, have paid a high price for war and to the same extent, for our progress in the past 20 years. We are not willing to give up our hard-won gains in the name of peace. There is no peace when there is no equity, justice and equal rights. We are tired of war and want peace, but an inclusive peace -- one that safeguards our gains. We will use every opportunity to make it an inclusive process and one under which women’s rights are protected. We need your support more than ever in our fight to keep school doors open for girls at all levels and to not let women fade away from public life."
--Murwarid Ziayee, Senior Director, CW4WAfghan
It has been our joy and privilege to be witness to Afghanistan’s successes -- and above all else, the change Afghan women have forged -- over the past quarter century, since our movement first formed, and we embarked on this rewarding journey. We have had an incredible vantage point to what will one day make the history books: the triumph of the women. Along this same road we have also witnessed the tragedies and the struggle, and we know more yet lie on the road ahead. We are braced for these challenges, while our hope and our commitment to the women and girls of Afghanistan -- and the rights they valiantly fight for -- will never be extinguished. We will be there, no matter what, and we hope you will be with us. In solidarity and in defiance,