US/Afghan Women’s Council and Georgetown University co-host Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton to discuss advancing Afghan women – Nov. 15, 2013

Former first ladies Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton joined forces with Secretary of State John Kerry in a symposium at Georgetown University on Friday, November 15, to call attention to the vulnerable status of Afghan women and girls as the U.S. begins to draw down its forces and the country prepares for a presidential election next April. The symposium was called “Advancing Afghan Women: Promoting Peace and Progress in Afghanistan.”

Former First Lady Laura Bush and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discuss women in Afghanistan

Former First Lady Laura Bush and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discuss women in Afghanistan.

“Once our troops leave, the eyes of the United States will move away, and we can’t let that happen, “ Mrs. Bush said. She added that individuals can help the people of Afghanistan by donating to specific organizations within the country, such as the American University of Afghanistan, the Afghan Center for Learning and women’s centers around the country.

Secretary Clinton emphasized the importance of security at this pivotal time. Speaking directly to a group of Afghan women watching the proceedings from a classroom at the American University of Afghanistan (who could be seen in “real time” on a projection screen in the room), she said the U.S. and Afghanistan are currently negotiating a bilateral agreement on security. The one “sticking point” between the two countries concerns immunity from local arrest and prosecution for U.S. troops. She cautioned that if the agreement should fail, Afghanistan risks falling into the same cycle of violence that has taken hold in Iraq as U.S troops have withdrawn.

American University of Afghanistan

Women at American University of Afghanistan watched the speech in real-time.

Both Mrs. Bush and Secretary Clinton called for the youth of Afghanistan—with the online help of young people in the U.S. and around the world—to start a “public relations” campaign on the need for a valid, transparent vote this coming spring with as many people participating as possible.

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at the event, cohosted by the US/Afghan Women's Council and Georgetown University

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at the event, co-hosted by the US/Afghan Women’s Council and Georgetown University.

All the speakers agreed that the success of Afghanistan is crucial to the future of the entire region, and that the full participation of women in the economic, educational and political life of the country is essential to ensuring that success.

The symposium was cosponsored by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security, the George W. Bush Institute, the U.S. Afghan Women’s Council, and the U.S. Alliance in Support of the Afghan People.

-Lisa Moscatiello