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Afghan Activists Say Women Should Play Role in Future Government - 2001-11-30

The plight of Afghan women has long been an issue and one which becomes more prominent every day. A group of women who understand the situation facing women in Afghanistan is holding a two-day conference in New York City to discuss the issue and bring information to the public. The group formed last April to help give a voice to the women of Afghanistan.

"Women for Afghan Women," a group dedicated to the human rights of women in Afghanistan, says women should help shape Afghanistan's future and hold key positions in the post-war government.

Activist Fahima Vorgetts says, given that Afghanistan's population is more than half female, women have to be involved in decision making. She says she is disappointed by the lack of female participation at the United Nations-sponsored conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany.

"We hope that we can work together. We hope that we can put pressure on the U.N. and the UK and the United States and everybody there in Bonn to give more time and more rights to the women in Afghanistan to participate in the future of Afghanistan," she says.

Comprised of Afghan and non-Afghan women in the New York City area and supported by activists, writers and human rights professionals, "Women for Afghan Women" brings together key Afghan women to put forward realistic solutions for a post-war country. Masuda Sultan, a co-founder of the group, says Afghan women now have the world's attention and they should use it to make their voices heard.

"Afghan women do have a voice even if they are silenced in their own country," she says. "We have a voice here and we will speak for them until they have the opportunity to do so. The importance of today's conference is paramount by showing the world that there are competent, intelligent Afghan women that have workable solutions, that have interesting ideas; showcasing them will allow the world to recognize that Afghan women are here and we're here to stay."

The conference's keynote speaker, Zohra Yusuf Daoud, was once Miss Afghanistan. She is now an Afghan community activist in California where she hosts a talk radio show on Afghan affairs. Ms. Daoud says tolerance is the key to rebuilding.

"I ask all my Afghan sisters and brothers at this time, please put aside your differences. For the sake of Afghan people in Afghanistan, come together for the unity and peace," she says.

The group says it is now more crucial than ever that Afghan women are involved in the reconstruction of their country. In her speech, Ms. Daoud reminded the audience that a mother cannot educate her sons if she herself is not educated.