Mrs. Bush Highlights Women's
Achievements in Afghanistan
Women's Teacher in Training Institute
Thank you for your warm welcome. It is, indeed, an extraordinary privilege to be with you today to celebrate the incredible progress that has been made by the people of Afghanistan over these past four years. I have especially watched with great pride as courageous women across your country have taken on leadership roles as teachers, students, doctors, judges, business and community leaders, and politicians. And no where is that more evident than on this University campus. The United States Government is wholeheartedly committed to the full participation of women in all aspects of Afghan society, not just in Kabul, but in every province.
The National Women's Dormitory and the Women's Teacher Training Institute will allow women to come from every corner of the country and have a safe place to stay and study so that they can return home and share one of life's greatest gifts with their communities - the gift of an education.
I want to thank Mina Sherzoy, the Head of the Afghan Business Women's Council, for organizing the marketplace today which showcases some of the local wares being produced by women entrepreneurs. Mina recently led a delegation of 14 exceptional women entrepreneurs to the U.S. to participate in a mini MBA program spearheaded by Barbara Barrett and Thunderbird University - one of our nation's top international business schools. One of these exceptional women, Hamira Nassary, was my guest at President Bush's State of the Union address in the United States Capitol.
I would also like to thank Dr. Ashraf Ghani, the President of Kabul University for the opportunity to speak with you today. You are doing such important work and we greatly appreciate your devotion to the education of the people of Afghanistan.
It is said that big things have small beginnings. Two years ago, the teacher training institute was just a dream. In July of 2003, the US-Afghan Women's Council visited one of my husband's top advisers, Karen Hughes, in her home town of Austin, Texas. As Karen talked with them about the most pressing needs facing the women of Afghanistan, the consensus from her Afghan counterparts, including the Women's Minister, Habbiba Sarabi, was a dire need for teachers in the remote and rural communities. Karen was told that women hoping to attend the University did not have a place to stay. The dormitories had historically only been for men. Karen told me of these needs, and as a teacher and librarian myself, I hoped that the United States Government could help build this institute. Many of you here today have all played a critical role in making this dream a reality. And from today's small beginnings we expect the Institute will yield great things.
There is much more to this place than the bricks and mortar you see around us. The ordinary business that will take place here is, in fact, a symbol itself of the extraordinary leap forward Afghan women have taken.
We are only a few years removed from the rule of the terrorists, when women were denied education and every basic human right. That tyranny has been replaced by a young democracy, and the power of freedom is on display across Afghanistan.
We must be mindful though, that democracy is more than just elections. The survival of a free society ultimately depends on the participation of all its citizens, both men and women. This is possible if institutions like this exist to give women the basic tools they need to contribute fully to society-and the most critical tool of all is an education.
So the hard work of the Institute has begun. Future teachers will come here for an innovative teacher training course. The Afghan Literacy Initiative, an accelerated literacy, math, and life skills curriculum for remote rural communities, where many girls still do not have access to schools, should have over 2,000 pupils by the end of the year. These students will be trained in their communities, as a result of a cascading system of training that begins with the development of the master trainers, here with us today.
Another program is Learning for Life, a health-focused course that is designed to help reduce maternal and child mortality. This program addresses two critical needs for Afghan women: literacy and healthcare. It will help people learn to read with materials that are focused on health. This makes literacy directly relevant to something women care about greatly-the well-being of their families. Over the next two years, Learning for Life will reach 8,000 women, and of those, 5,500 young women across thirteen provinces will qualify to be trained as health care workers and midwives.
The Teacher Training Institute is public-private partnership and it will continue to require the assistance of the Ministry of Education, numerous private donors, non-governmental organizations, and of course, the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council.
I would also like to extend a special thanks to two United States corporations - Microsoft and Dell Computers - for their extraordinary generosity on behalf of both the Teacher Training Institute and the International Association of Women Judges. These companies heard that the women of Afghanistan had a need for technology assistance and they immediately provided computers, printers, and teaching application software. This is just one more example of the American people's commitment to the success of the people of Afghanistan.
Today I am proud to announce the United States' commitment to another initiative. The United States is supporting the establishment of the American University of Afghanistan with a multi-year commitment of more than 15 million dollars. This will provide a modern facility with an international faculty to educate future leaders.
The American University will aggressively reach out to young Afghan women, to ensure they feature prominently in the school and bring to it their invaluable perspective and determination. There will be appropriate facilities and housing for women, and care will be taken to be sure the faculty of this co-ed institution is inclusive of women. The school will also offer scholarships to outstanding young women who otherwise may not able to attend. Classes will be offered in business, management, information technology, and other professional areas of study.
Finally, I'm pleased to announce the development of another education initiative- the International School of Afghanistan. The school will provide Afghan children from kindergarten through high school with a first-rate education through a classical curriculum including mathematics, language, literature and grammar, the sciences, social studies, culture and arts. We have dedicated $3.5 million for the establishment of this school.
These three initiatives are each significant. They are all part of an overall commitment by President Bush to Afghan education projects totaling 80 million dollars.
These are more than just development projects-they also signify the bond between the American and Afghan people. They are symbols of our shared hopes and dreams for the future. That dream is of a prosperous, peaceful, and above all, a free Afghanistan, where both men and women stand upright in equality.
As we have worked together these past years, we have accomplished much and launched projects that will yield great results in the coming years. We have also learned a great deal about each other. We have come to know what is in each other's hearts, and is so doing, come to understand that we are very much alike.
At this time, I would like to invite Margaret Spellings, America's Secretary of Education, Noor Mohammed Qarqeen Afghanistan's Minister of Education, and Dr. Sayed Amir Shah Hassanyaar, Afghanistan's Minister of Higher Education to join me on the stage to sign an agreement between our two governments on these important initiatives. I would also like to ask the American Ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, Paula Dobriansky, United States Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, and Jim Kunder, Assistant Administrator for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to join us for the signing ceremony.
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