I would like research into the political motivations of and public response to Laura Bush's Afghan Women's Project
Hello! Thanks for your question about the political motivations of and public response to Laura Bush's Afghan Women's Project. I understand you would like to learn about the immediate political and public responses to Laura Bush's address to the nation concerning the plight of Afghan women; the international reaction to any of the actions US Congress took as a result; and what the changing analysis of the motivations and results of the Afghan Women's Project have looked like now that it is more than 15 years on. The short answer is that the combined parties of the US government immediately led initiatives to help Afghan women during the war with differing levels of public support. In 2016, Laura Bush considers it necessary to continue fighting for the rights of Afghan women. Below you will find a deep dive of my findings.
In order to answer your question as concisely as possible I will present my findings in separate sections, namely Congress discussions, International response, and Current Analysis. Each area of discussion will provide you with links to useful sources that should help tie together the findings.
BACKGROUND - AFGHAN WOMEN'S PROJECT
As the US began their search for Osama bin Laden immediately following the attacks on New York City on September 11, 2001, international media coverage helped to bring to the world's attention the terrible and oppressive treatment of women and children in Afghanistan, who were subject to the harsh control of the Taliban regime. In direct response, Laura Bush made full use of the air time set aside for the Presidential Address on November 17, 2001, to deliver the first of six speeches which were designed to bring international attention to the treatment of Afghan women under Taliban rule. This resulted in a program which was established by President George W.Bush and Hamid Karzai, former president of Afghanistan, called the US-Afghan Women's Council. The goal of the council was to "improve the education, health, economic and leadership status of Afghan women and children."
Despite extensively researching academic databases, government reports/databases, and trusted media sites, it was not possible to find in the public domain any released discussion between congressmen regarding the approved bills. However, I did find some useful sources which contain information regarding bills which were passed by congress and which also contain the thoughts from the officials regarding the war. See below:
The US Department of State issued a report on November 17, 2001, entitled 'The Taliban's War Against Women'. This outlines the conditions of the lives of Afghan women and children and the US humanitarian response. This report makes it clear that both parties were in support of the 'Afghan Women and Children Relief Act of 2001'
An article published in the New York Times commenting on the 'The Taliban's War Against Women' report. This article confirms the bill approved by Congress to authorize President Bush to use emergency funds made available after 9/11 for programs that promote schooling and health care for Afghan women and children. The article also noted that as of 2001, the governments of Muslim-majority countries such as Indonesia and Bangladesh are headed by women
A 2014 report following up on the 'US Embassy Kabul Gender Strategy' as implemented in 2010 which aimed to solidify the US government's commitment since 2001 to improve the lives of Afghan women. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction supports U.S involvement in Afghanistan but recommends the need to have more transparency in funding and progress by the Department of Defense, the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development
A 2014 article in The Huffington Post which discusses Senator Bob Casey's comments regarding the US intentions to continue the work of protecting the rights of women in Afghanistan. The State Department has also granted Casey’s request to expand its outreach to survivors of domestic violence in Afghanistan by working with Afghan policewomen and female legal advisors
An article from the website The Daily Beast, which discusses the passing of the 52nd National Defense Authorization Act. This Act was passed with an overall goal to establish national forces that can provide security for all Afghans—inclusive of men, women, boys, and girls; a minimum of $25 million was authorized specifically for women in the Afghan forces. To allow women to vote, female security personnel are needed to staff women-only polling stations, which remain closed if there are no women to fill the role
An article called 'The Situation of Women in Afghanistan' contains useful information regarding the United Nations and how it has played a part in providing aid for Afghan women. The article contains a list of efforts by the international community to rehabilitate Afghanistan. The article also describes women’s role such as organizing panel discussions, conferences and international meetings, in order to ensure that the experiences and needs of Afghan women would receive the needed attention
PUBLIC RESPONSE AND CURRENT ANALYSIS
I have grouped these two areas of discussion into one section since most of the sources listed below touch upon a variety of information which often tie the two areas together. This section provides a list of sources which contain insights and opinions from journalists and academics regarding the Afghanistan war and/or the discourse on ‘saving’ the Afghan women and discussions of what still needs to be done for them:
An article titled 'Using Women's Rights to Sell Washington's War' by Sharon Smith, published in the International Socialist Review - she argues against using Afghan women’s rights to justify the war. She felt that Afghan women have not been freed as the US installed interim government has resulted in bringing back the Northern Alliance rapists and looters back to power
In this article, Lila Abu-Lughod questioned the need to ‘save’ Muslim/Afghan women. She discussed the issue of whether Americans really understand the cultural difference between Afghan and American women and by promoting ‘working’ instead of ‘saving’ Afghan women would result in making the world a better place for them
This article in Womensenews.com talks about various groups such as Code Pink and rights activists in Afghanistan who are against Obama’s decision to increase military presence in Afghanistan. They feel that development aid ($1.5 billion) should be closer to military support ($40 billion)
In an article entitled 'What Do Afghan Women Really Want?' the authors disagree with the wholesale exportation of a highly Americanized concept of women’s liberation and suggest other ways in which we should be working towards protection of women’s rights. One suggestion is to support locally driven agendas and approaches which naturally means ensuring cultural relevancy, even if that doesn’t fit squarely with donor perspectives
Saba Gul Khattak in an article entitled 'Afghan Women' published on merip.org, argued that the root of the Afghan girls’ problem is not the Taliban but is the country’s patriarchal society. She noted one of the US ally, the Northern Alliance, has a reputation for rape and that even before the Taliban took power, women are already disempowered in an unequal social system that does not punish masculinist violence towards women
In the article entitled 'Afghan Women's Hopes for the Future', Ashraf Zahedi discusses the topic of donations and aid and how much was pledged to help Afghan women - between 2002-2012 the figure pledged was $62 billion but the actual total of international aid was only $26.7 billion. Donors’ money was said to be wasted due to duplication of projects, mismanagement of resources and poor donors’ coordination
In a 2016 article in The Huffington Post, Akbar Shahid Ahmed claimed that despite U.S intervention, demeaning practices such as “virginity tests” and assaults against women are still prevalent in Afghanistan. He also stated that linking the rights of Afghan women with American militarism will not help Afghan women from gaining sympathy from American citizens
This article found on rferl.org confirmed Akbar Shahid Ahmed’s claim about the “virginity tests” in Afghanistan, a country where a bride's virginity is regarded by many as proof of her purity. Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission says as recently as 2015 that women and girls accused of having sex outside marriage are often forced to undergo "invasive" and "humiliating" tests by government doctors. This indicates that although there has been improvement in areas of education and the right to work for Afghan women since the fall of the Taliban, there still remains rife domestic and sexual abuse of women
LAURA BUSH TODAY ON THE SUBJECT
In November 2016, in recognition of her years of fighting for Afghan women's rights, Laura Bush was presented with the Women's Democracy Network "10 for 10" award. During the round-table discussion, she proposed that President-elect Donald Trump continues to engage Afghanistan's women's rights issues, talked about higher enrollment of Afghan girls in primary schools and promoted her book, 'We are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope'.
During the interview with USA TODAY, Laura Bush said that she has been fighting for the Afghan girls’ cause for 15 years because she felt that they needed help then and still need help today. She also applauds Obama’s decision to keep troops in Afghanistan as she feels it is in the USA’s security interest to stay and help as long as it takes. As reported on glamour.com, Laural Bush talks about her conversation with the new Afghan First Lady, Rula Ghani, who was frustrated that the world still has a relatively narrow idea of Afghan women and what they do.
To wrap it up, although actual discussions that took place on the senate and house floor have not been released to the public, I was able to find many examples of how the US government responded to the needs of Afghan women, as brought into focus by Laura Bush's Afghan Women's Project. Many new bills were passed, projects established and funds pledged which all had the intention of improving the lives of Afghan women and children. However, the media response has been varied with strong opinion that the Bush administration led this initiative as a way to justify the war on Afghanistan. It is also widely acknowledged that a lot of work still needs to be done to improve the quality of life for women today in Afghanistan, and for America to form a better understanding of who the Afghan woman is. Thanks for using Wonder! Please let us know if we can help with anything else!