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Sec. Of State Clinton Addresses Afghan Women’s Rights During Visit To Kabul

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “used part of her address to a key conference in Kabul on Tuesday to defend Afghan women concerned that peace efforts with the Taliban could jeopardise their rights,” Agence France-Presse reports.  

“I speak from experience when I say that the work of Afghan women and civil society groups will be essential to this country’s success,” Clinton said to a group of 70 representatives from international organizations and countries. “If these groups are fully empowered to help build a just and lasting peace, they will help do so. If they are silenced and pushed to the margins of Afghan society, the prospects for peace and justice will be subverted.”

“An Afghanistan that is stable, peaceful and secure is in everyone’s interest, particularly women and children,” she said. “But it cannot come at the cost of women.”

One in 8 Afghan women die in childbirth, which is “one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world,” according to AFP (7/20).

Capitol Hill Event Addresses Maternal Mortality In Afghanistan

“Just hours” after Clinton’s remarks, “members of women’s advocacy groups met Tuesday on Capitol Hill to discuss progress and issues concerning Afghan women’s health,” McClatchy/Montreal Gazette reports.

“Speakers in Washington highlighted the increased number of midwives in the country since the U.S.-led invasion, while saying that more needs to be done to protect Afghan women during childbirth. Afghanistan has the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world, after Sierra Leone,” the news service notes.

“They are part of our national security,” said Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) “The women who are (in Afghanistan who) can change their communities can also provide the kind of security that we seek.”

Over the past seven years, more than 1,400 midwives have graduated from programs that receive U.S. support, according to Melanne Verveer, the ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues at the State Department. She noted that life expectancy for Afghan women is among the worst in the world at 44 years. Pregnancies at a young age, a weak health infrastructure and cultural views on childbirth contribute to the number of deaths.

“One of the approaches to ending terrorism in our world is by empowering women and making them full members of their society so they can speak for education, health care, justice and fairness,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), co-chair of the International Women’s Issues Task Force. 

“[P]ostpartum hemorrhage, the leading cause of maternal mortality in Afghanistan, has decreased recently because of education and better health care, said Dr. Nasratullah Ansari, the technical director of an Afghanistan health services support project,” McClatchy/Montreal Gazette writes.

“We do indeed have reasons to be hopeful that we have the tools and knowledge to address the issue of maternal mortality,”‘ Verveer said (Davenport, 7/20).

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