Congressional women: Don’t forget the oppressed, Mr. Obama

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In the wake of President Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States will begin withdrawing from Afghanistan, lawmakers and leaders belonging to the Afghan Women’s Task Force fear worsening oppression of women.

Even with the current troop levels, Afghanistan is considered to be the “most dangerous country” for women, according to a June poll of 213 gender experts by TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s legal news service.

“As our armed forces begin to draw down in Afghanistan, it is critical that the United States engage directly with Afghan leaders and the international community to ensure women play a meaningful role in the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Plan,” Washington Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Maryland Democratic Rep. Donna Edwards, co-chairs of the Afghan Women’s Task Force, said in a joint statement following the president’s speech.

The task force is concerned that the lack of American oversight will result in a deterioration of the status of women in Afghanistan.

“We share the concerns of Afghanistan’s female Members of Parliament, civic, and business leaders that a US draw down could leave a vacuum where Afghan women see their rights trampled in a government transition,” the two legislators continued. “This would eliminate the tenuous gains Afghan women have made over the last decade and is unacceptable. We urge the Obama Administration to not only protect the rights of Afghan women in the upcoming peace process, but to pressure all involved parties to allow Afghan women to advocate on their own behalf.”

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Rodgers and Edwards launched the Afghan Women’s Task Force earlier this month in order to ensure that women’s rights in Afghanistan are protected, even as troop levels recede.

“After multiple visits to Afghanistan, I am convinced that the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program must include women and take their interests into account,” Edwards said at the launch of the task force. “This will require a concerted effort from all participating parties, including the international community. I look forward to continuing to work with Members of Congress, the State Department, and Afghan women leaders to make sure the Peace and Reintegration Program meets the needs of all Afghans.”

To meet their goals, the task force is involved in mentoring programs and advocacy for the future female leaders of Afghanistan.

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