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US Launches Scholarship Program for Afghan Women

The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan on Wednesday launched a program to help advance educational opportunities for Afghan women.

Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Promote Scholarship Program will provide aid to 720 Afghan women over the next five years, an embassy statement said.

Recipients will use the scholarships to complete their bachelor's degrees at private universities in Afghanistan. An additional 180 master’s degree scholarships will be provided to students to study in countries in the region, mainly at Indian universities, according to an official of the Asia Foundation in Kabul, which will be implementing the project.

“[The program is] giving us hope and opportunity for advancement and personal enrichment, and for the advancement of Afghan women,” said U.S. Charge d'Affaires Michael Raynor, who announced the program along with Afghanistan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and other senior Afghan officials.

The scholarship program targets students who have demonstrated strong academic performance and those who are unable to pursue university education because of inadequate funds. The recipients are expected to contribute to creating an environment that fosters women’s empowerment in the country.

“It is time to thank the United States for their generosity and sacrifice to make those changes possible for the citizens of Afghanistan,” Abdullah said.

Despite many obstacles such as a lack of parity in health care and in economic and political opportunities, Afghan women have made tremendous strides in the past 14 years.

In addition to the assistance provided by USAID and the international community, the current Afghan government has been trying to provide larger political opportunities for Afghan women.

The Promote program, the largest women’s empowerment program in USAID’s history, was launched in November 2014 to help advance “opportunities for Afghan women who can become political, private sector and civil society leaders.”

Since 2002, USAID has provided the largest bilateral civilian assistance program to Afghanistan. The U.S. State Department has provided hundreds of educational scholarships to Afghan men and women, including the prestigious Fulbright and Humphrey fellowship programs, at U.S. universities.

VOA’s Rahimgul Sarwan contributed to this report from Kabul.