A delegation of Afghan women in government visit Washington, DC to discuss reforms

A new generation of Afghan women leaders are driving the reforms agenda as part of the new face of government

March 6, 2018

Last month, the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C., the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, and Open Society Foundation, hosted a high-level, all-female delegation of Afghan government officials in Washington, D.C. for a busy week of public engagements and round tables at think tanks, meetings with United States government officials and Congress, and interviews with media.

The women represent the new generation of Afghan government leaders, and the political future of the country now breaking down a legacy of patronage networks and implementing reform at all levels. During their visit, they provided updates on the reforms and progress happening across all sectors in the country today.

The delegation showcased a number of passionate women leaders including: Adela Raz, Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Naheed Sarabi, Deputy Minister for Policy, Ministry of Finance; Muqaddesa Yourish, Appointment Board Commissioner, Independent Administrative Reforms and Civil Service Commission;  Ghizaal Haress, Commissioner, Independent Commission for Overseeing the Implementation of the Constitution; Shaharzad Akbar, Senior Advisor to the President on High Councils; Naheed Esar, Director of Policy and Analysis, Administrative Office of the President; and Dr. Zohra Nawabi, Member, Provincial Council of Kabul Province.

They met with several U.S. government officials including at the US Department of State, Department of Defense, the National Security Council, the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, USAID, and members of Congress. The delegation discussed the overall progress on implementing development, economic and fiscal reforms in Afghanistan, positive social changes happening in the country, and also addressed a range of issues from private sector investment and regional connectivity, to the current political and security challenges facing the country.

The women attended meetings on Capitol Hill where they met with members from the annual Mother’s Day Congressional Delegation to Afghanistan, chaired by Representatives Susan Davis, Martha Roby, Niki Tsongas, and Susan Brooks. They also visited the Co-Chair of the Afghan Caucus, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee; and Representative Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where they shared the success of women’s economic and political empowerment efforts in Afghanistan.

The delegation provided insight on regional collaboration and Afghanistan’s pivotal role in becoming the hub for Central and South Asia at a luncheon with private sector, investment, and economic development partners at the Embassy of Afghanistan; and engaged in discussion about the peace process, reform agenda, and transparency and anti-corruption efforts at roundtables at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic and International Studies (click here for more information about the roundtable), the Heritage Foundation, Institute for the Study of War, and United States Institute for Peace. They also engaged with U.S. and Afghan media at a breakfast at the Embassy of Afghanistan where they responded to questions by leading journalists from NPR, The Economist, PBS, and Voice of America. Also during the week, the women met with editorial boards from USA Today, The Washington Post, and New York Times, and provided interviews with Fox News, PBS Newshour, and Voice of America.

The women also spoke on a public panel at the Brookings Institute, focusing on Afghanistan’s new generation of women leaders. Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Adela Raz said, “Let us start to think about Afghan women as partners, not victims or survivors…that is where the image will change.” On efforts towards anti-corruption, Deputy Minister for Policy from the Ministry of Finance Naheed Sarabi said, “We reformed the Ministry of Finance and the budget – for the first time we have a transparent, credible budget.” She highlighted that “Afghanistan was named second most transparent budget in the region next to Nepal, a major achievement for Afghanistan.” When asked if they were optimistic about the future of the country, Commissioner Muqaddesa Yourish explained, “There are no shortcuts. State-building and legitimacy takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.” Check out a recap of the discussion.

Lastly, the delegation of Afghan women leaders attended two receptions at the Embassy of Afghanistan hosted in their honor. The first included U.S. military veterans who served in Afghanistan and Gold Star family members who lost loved ones serving in Afghanistan, with guest speaker Ellyn Dunford, wife of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford. In her remarks, Mrs. Dunford said, “We continue to build bonds between Afghan and U.S. citizens, military services, and families who have lost loved ones – there is a common bond between Afghans and Americans that needs to continue to be nurtured.”

At the farewell reception hosted at the Embassy of Afghanistan, Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs Adela Raz told guests, “You constantly hear the negative stories that come out of Afghanistan, but there is progress being made that is not covered in the media. We want to give [Americans] assurance that Afghanistan is on the right path towards our shared objective: stability and security.”

Check out the links below for interviews with the Afghan Women Reformers:

Fox News: Forthcoming next week

PBS NewsHour – What more women in government would mean for Afghanistan

Voice of America, Pashto

Voice of America, Dari

Click here to watch about the delegation’s visit.