Georgetown students began lining up at midnight before Friday’s event at Gaston Hall on Georgetown’s main campus in Washington, D.C.. U.S. Secretary of State of John Kerry, Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Former First Lady Laura Bush highlighted this event titled “Advancing Afghan Women: Promoting Peace & Progress in Afghanistan”. The event was focused on the profound influence that Afghan women have and are capable of having in shaping the future of their country. Although many of these women have made incredible progress for Afghanistan, a major theme of the event was the fear that the progress is in danger of being reversed. Instead of solely sitting back and admiring these women, it is important that further progress is pushed so that their work is not in vain.
As American troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan, the concern of these women is legitimate. Laura Bush stressed the importance of not shifting our attention along with our troops. Hillary Clinton also commented on the significance of keeping these issues on the forefront and also to remind the leadership of Afghanistan that “all of the sacrifice and decades of war and conflict that have ravaged their country could be for naught if we don’t have a unified consensus about must happen going forward”. With elections in Afghanistan nearing, there remains the potential for Afghanistan to thrive in a strategic location in the heart of the Middle East. For Afghanistan to reach its potential, Afghan women need to reach theirs. The country's success depends on the growth of involvement of women in its society. Both Clinton and Kerry invoked the metaphor that “men and women are like two wings on the same bird”. That is to say that Afghanistan cannot reach any of its goals without both wings in full force. For women to be in full force they need to have a voice and they need to be heard. Kerry stressed that societies in which women are more empowered have always been and always will be both more prosperous and more stable. The best way to empower women is to give them a voice and to have their stories shared.
Kerry highlighted one woman in particular, who he met on a trip to Kabul, who is working towards this goal. Roya Mahboob (http://www.filmannex.com/royamahboob) pressure for local authorities in building her own software company, Afghan Citadel Software Company. This was not the first time I had heard of Roya Mahboob. I had heard of her story and business partnership with a longtime personal friend of my family, Francesco Rulli (http://www.filmannex.com/francesco) Her success has provided Internet access to thousands of girls in Afghanistan. Her efforts are serving to connect Afghan women to a global community.
Although there has been much progress in the education and empowering of women, there is still much progress to be made. By connecting women to a larger community through the Internet, women have the platform they need to push change and to bring to light issues that otherwise may have been overlooked.
Picture courtesy of Angela Shah
As a scholar of digital literacy, I am more than familiar with the power and the influence that the Internet offers.The Internet has always been a space where ideas are shared and discussed. By nature, we are all stronger in groups. Global communities are being formed that would be impossible without the level of connectivity that the Internet provides. This connectivity plays no small role in movements like this. The Internet has given a voice to everyone with access to it. It is the medium for expression of my generation. This is the perfect weapon that we need and that women need in pushing change in Afghanistan and avoiding the reversal of any gains in this advancement of women in Afghan society.