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US Congresswoman:  Women Must Be Part of New Afghan Government - 2001-11-24

A leading female member of the U.S. Congress said Saturday Afghan women must play a part in the proposed provisional government in Afghanistan.

In nationally broadcast remarks, Los Angeles Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald said it is paramount that women return to the more prominent role they once occupied in Afghan society. She denounced the horrendous condition of women under Taleban rule where they could not drive, work, go to school, or show their faces in public. It wasn't always that way. At one time, Ms. Millender-McDonald recalled, women comprised 70 percent of Afghan teachers, doctors, nurses, and bankers.

"In 1977 Afghanistan ratified a constitution giving full equal rights to women under the law and without discrimination," she said. "Women made up 15 percent of the highest legislative decision making body in the country and played an integral and influential role in the governance of Afghan people."

Ms. Millender-McDonald addressed the American public in the Democratic party response to President Bush's regular Saturday broadcast. The democratic lawmaker said she is in accord with the views on the plight of Afghan women expressed last week by first lady Laura Bush.

Ms. Millender-McDonald is optimistic that with the Taleban no longer in power Afghan women will no longer be forced to live in degraded circumstances.

"We as Americans must stand up for the women of Afghanistan," she said. "After years of being subjugated and brutally repressed it is time for them to return to the level of governance and participation they once enjoyed and were guaranteed under the Afghan constitution."

Ms. Millender-McDonald said no government in Afghanistan will be viable unless it includes all elements of society including women.