The First Lady of Afghanistan, H.E. Rula Ghani was in Washington, DC last week for a series of engagements on Afghan women’s role as peacemakers, and women’s economic empowerment.
Mrs. Ghani has been very active in her role as First Lady, and is a champion of women’s rights in Afghanistan. In May of 2016, the First Lady held a symposium in Kabul, Afghanistan on Afghan Women and Their Role in Society and another in May of this year on Afghan Women as Messengers of Peace.
On October 25th, the United States Institute of Peace facilitated a panel discussion on Afghan women as peacemakers. In her opening remarks, First Lady Ghani told the audience that although there is a negative stereotype of Afghan women as illiterate and feeble, many Afghan women are articulate and ready to get involved. Representative Susan Davis of California and Palwasha Kakar, Senior Program Officer at USIP, joined the First Lady for a discussion moderated by USIP President Nancy Lindborg. On women and peace, First Lady Ghani said, “Women no longer want to wait for peace to fall into their lap. They’re working for it.” Watch the discussion here.
Later that evening, the Embassy of Afghanistan, Embassy of Canada, Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security and the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council co-hosted a special screening of The Breadwinner, an Oscar-nominated animation about an Afghan girl who dresses as a boy to support her family during the Taliban regime. “The film rings true,” said First Lady Ghani on a panel following the film screening. “Although it is an animation, The Breadwinner really shows you what people have gone through in Afghanistan.” The panel discussion focused on the progress that Afghan women and girls have achieved over the past 15 years. Watch the discussion here.
On October 30th, the First Lady spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in an armchair discussion with Daniel Runde, Director of the Project of Prosperity and Development. First Lady Ghani spoke about the progress of women’s social and economic empowerment. When asked about education in Afghanistan, First Lady Ghani explained that the mentality has changed from the times of war- that both men and women express the importance of educating their daughters. Watch the discussion at CSIS and listen to a CSIS podcast featuring First Lady Rula Ghani.
During the evening of October 30th, the Embassy of Afghanistan co-hosted a reception with Thrums Books and the US-Afghan Women’s Council to launch the book, Embroidering Within Boundaries: Afghan Women Creating a Future by Rangina Hamidi and Marry Littrell. Speaking about author Rangina Hamidi, Mrs. Ghani said, “Afghans can stand on their own two feet and Rangina exemplifies that idea.” She continued, “That is the way to the future.” Watch First Lady Ghani’s remarks here.
The First Lady’s last day in Washington, DC began with a private meeting at the Embassy of Afghanistan with former First Lady of the United States Laura Bush. The First Ladies talked about the importance of empowering Afghan women economically and with educational opportunities, and their role as peacemakers. To read their op-ed on supporting Afghan businesswomen, click here.
After their private meeting, First Lady Ghani and Mrs. Bush sat with CNN’s Brooke Baldwin to film segments for CNN Newsroom that will air throughout the week. The First Ladies were joined by three Afghan women, Manizha Wafeq, Manizha Naderi and Onaba Payab to discuss education, women’s empowerment and gender equality with Ms. Baldwin.
First Lady Ghani, former First Lady Bush and the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council later briefed Congress about the importance in continuing to support and empower Afghan women. The briefing was hosted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Women’s Caucus. This concluded the First Lady’s trip in Washington, DC which was then followed with a brief visit in New York City before her return to Afghanistan.
The First Lady of Afghanistan, accompanied by Mrs. Bush, attended the 4th annual Asia Society Game Changers Gala. The two First Ladies presented the Education Game Changers award to Sesame Street and the Afghan muppet Zari, who was introduced last year to focus on girls’ empowerment in Afghanistan. Sherrie Westin, Sesame Workshop’s Executive Vice President of Global Impact and Philanthropy, said to Zari, “You’ve become a powerful role model for showing girls and boys how important it is to go to school.”