Mrs. Bush is actively involved in supporting President Bush's global diplomatic efforts. As First Lady, she has traveled to more than 75 countries. A leading advocate for literacy, Mrs. Bush has championed the power of education to foster healthy families and communities, advance opportunity for young people, and promote human rights worldwide, particularly for women and children.
Global Literacy and Education
Illiteracy is a global challenge. According to UNESCO, more than 771 million adults around the world cannot read. Eighty-five percent of them live in just 35 countries and more than two-thirds of these illiterate adults are women. Literacy is essential for achieving the goals of eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, fostering economic development, and achieving gender equality.
President and Mrs. Bush believe education has the power to transform individual lives, communities, and whole societies. Educated children help create a world of understanding and tolerance. They are better able to handle life's challenges and more equipped for a promising future. A leading advocate for the President's international education initiatives, Mrs. Bush supports education for boys and girls throughout Africa and the rest of the world. She has participated in more than 70 education events in 37 countries.
Mrs. Bush is advancing health initiatives which are saving lives and healing countries. She has focused domestic and international attention on the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the President's Malaria Initiative (PMI), and global efforts for breast cancer awareness and research.
The United States is working with the international community to promote peace, stability, and reconstruction in Afghanistan. Mrs. Bush has made three historic trips to Afghanistan in March 2005, March 2006, and June 2008. Her visits underscore President Bush's commitment to supporting the country's rebuilding and development.
Since 2001, Mrs. Bush has helped focus domestic and international attention on the challenges facing the people of Afghanistan, particularly women and children. On November 17, 2001, Mrs. Bush became the first First Lady to deliver the President's weekly radio address when she spoke out against the oppression of women and children under the Taliban. Fewer than a million Afghan children attended school in 2001 all of them boys. Today, more than six million Afghan children are in school about a third of them girls. Since the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan's infant-mortality rate has been reduced by almost 25 percent, and 85 percent of Afghans now have access to basic healthcare.
Mrs. Bush serves as the Honorary Chair of the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council, created by Presidents Bush and Karzai in 2002 to promote private/public partnerships between U.S. and Afghan institutions and to mobilize private resources to ensure Afghan women gain the skills and education they were deprived under the Taliban. To date, the Council has implemented over 30 initiatives in the areas of economic empowerment, education, political participation, health, and children's issues totaling approximately $70 million. Mrs. Bush routinely meets with Afghan students, teachers, parliamentarians, lawyers, and judges during their visits to the United States for education and training.
For more on Mrs. Bush's efforts in support of Afghanistan, click here
For nearly 20 years, Burma's military regime has denied fundamental freedoms, violently crushed peaceful dissent, and jailed thousands of political prisoners. Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of the democratically-elected National League for Democracy, has spent more than 12 years under house arrest since 1989. The United States has called on the international community to support the people of Burma in bringing peaceful democratic change to their country.
Mrs. Bush actively supports the people of Burma as they struggle to free themselves from the regime's tyranny. She has called on the regime to stop its terror campaigns against its own people; to release all political prisoners; to commit to a meaningful, unrestricted dialogue with opposition leaders; and to take steps to foster a democratic transition. She has also called on the international community to refrain from purchasing Burmese gemstones, the revenue from which supports the repressive Burmese regime rather helping the people of Burma. Mrs. Bush has also met and held video-teleconferences with several Burmese activists struggling for freedom.
For more on Mrs. Bush's efforts in support of the people of
Burma, click here