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Remarks by Mrs. Bush
at USAID Event
Ronald Reagan Building
January 29, 2002

Remarks of Mrs. Laura Bush at USAID Event with Interim Chairman of the Afghan Authority Hamid Karzai

As delivered.

Thank you, Andrew, for your terrific work on behalf of the USAID.

Good afternoon. I am delighted to be here to highlight our nation's commitment to the people of Afghanistan, especially our support for the education of women and children.

Last November I joined Americans in focusing on the brutality against Afghan women by the al-Qaeda terrorist network and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

And today we continue to speak out on behalf of the women and children - especially girls -- who, for years, were denied their basic human rights of health and education.

Thanks to the efforts of the international community, the days of oppression and terror by the Taliban are becoming a memory. However, we must never forget the atrocities that took place at the hands of the Taliban.

We will not forget that 70 percent of Afghans are malnourished.

We will not forget that one of every four children dies by the age of five because of lack of health care.

We will not forget that women were denied access to medical care -- denied the right to work, and denied the right to leave their homes alone.

Thanks to the international coalition, those days are over. The rights and dignity of women and children are once again a priority for the government of Afghanistan.

Humanitarian assistance from the United States and many other countries has helped avert widespread famine in Afghanistan this winter. But now it is time to look beyond the crises of today - now is the time for the world to work with Afghanistan for a better tomorrow.

The man who is courageously leading the Afghan people now is with us today.

I am honored to stand with Hamid Karzai, Chairman of the Afghan Interim Authority. He is a man who personifies hope and optimism for the citizens of Afghanistan. Chairman Karzai, I welcome you, Dr. Sima Simar, Foreign Minister Abdullah, as well as your minister of education, and your reconstruction advisor.

Chairman Karzai's government recognizes that Afghanistan's future belongs to -- and depends upon - its children.

A new school term will begin in Afghanistan in March. Many girls will enter the classroom for the first time. Rebuilding the school system must be a priority. Nothing is more important to Afghanistan's future than giving its children the tools and skills they need to learn and succeed.

The United States remains one of the largest donors of emergency humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.

We have pledged $296 million this fiscal year to help Afghanistan with its rebuilding effort, which includes the rebuilding of its school system.

We are also committed to making sure the women of Afghanistan again have the freedom and the resources to pursue an education and a profession.

I have been fortunate to meet some of Afghanistan's expatriate women. They are strong, courageous and dedicated to their home country. We look forward to their return home to help rebuild and transform Afghanistan.

Chairman Karzai, the world is celebrating a new chapter in Afghanistan's history. With your leadership and love of country, we are confident that all people of Afghanistan - men, women and children - will have a role in this unfolding story.

Thank you.

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