U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council Moves to Georgetown from White House
December 19, 2008 – As President Bush transitions out of office, the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council also will make a transition -- to Georgetown.
Beginning Jan. 20, the council will be housed in Georgetown’s Center for Child and Human Development, directed by Phyllis Magrab. Established in 2002 by Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai as a public-private partnership, the council aims to support women as they open businesses and seek educational opportunities,
Magrab will be the council’s new vice chair, while Georgetown President John J. DeGioia will serve as co-chair. First Lady Laura Bush, a council member and proponent of Afghan women’s rights, presided over the ceremonial transition during a Dec. 18 meeting in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. A table full of council members and private sector partners in Washington interacted with their Afghan counterparts in Kabul through teleconferencing technology.
Bush pledged to remain involved in the cause after her husband leaves office.
“This is my last U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council meeting as first lady, and so in my next meeting I'll be on the private side,” she said. “I think there's a very strong role for both the public and private sides of the partnership.”
Just seven years ago when the Taliban held a firm grip on Afghanistan, it may have seemed inconceivable that women could ever enjoy rights and independence in the country or even receive a basic education.
Now, after the fall of Taliban rule, Afghanistan has its first-ever female provincial governor, Habiba Sarabi. Council members call her appointment a small, but significant step for Sarabi and her fellow countrywomen, who slowly are emerging from the shadows to take part in the society.
“The women of Afghanistan still need our encouragement,” the first lady noted. “We know that because of years of lack of education, lack of health care and extreme poverty, women in Afghanistan still face many challenges.”
Georgetown is prepared to help ease those challenges, DeGioia said. The university first partnered with the council in 2006 and has played a lead role in it, hosting the council’s annual Washington meeting, which will occur next year. The meetings will take place at Georgetown.
“By transitioning the council to Georgetown, we hope to use our university’s unique resources to expand the great work that has already been accomplished and develop innovative ways to further improve the lives of Afghan women and children,” DeGioia said during the White House ceremony. “This is a great honor and responsibility we take very seriously.”
Magrab said hosting the council out of her center gives Georgetown an opportunity to put its mark on the work done for Afghan women and children while also meeting the university’s mission of helping others around the globe.
“The council does great work with education, finance, schooling and women’s empowerment,” Magrab said. “We can add to that, focusing especially on maternal and child health, through the partners we already have at Georgetown.”