I don’t know how you feel about the US/Afghani war, but I want you to ponder this. Today, Dennis Kucinich presented his bill in the House to end the war in 30 days, or, by no later the December 31st, 2010, if conditions on the ground warrant it. Another 33 billion dollars is about to be budgeted for the military and war effort. That does not include the money being spent from other venues, like the Small Business Administration grant monies to fund mercenaries.
The Bill is labeled: H.Con. Res.248, Directing the President, pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution, to remove the United States Armed Forces from Afghanistan., HERE.
Against this backdrop, Republicans have held up small bills, like the 45 million dollar one that would have been allocated money to support Afghani women, in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee since 2007.
Enter the new administration.
An Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy was issued on January 1st of this year. Senator Boxer wrote President Obama, over her concerns that women were only mentioned once. In February, a revised strategy was issued. Boxer purports that it includes women throughout the strategy. The full strategy can be found HERE. I Found 115 instances of the word “women” on 23 of the 50 pages in the pdf document. Surely, this alone is an improvement, and though women are not specially mentioned in the list of proposed milestones for either country, they are in the Afghani Key Initiatives for agriculture.
Yet, It’s not clear to me at this point exactly how women are to be counted in this document, because I couldn’t find any line items in the report that elucidated direct expenditures to women or women’s groups. It is clear, however, that the State Dept. administration considers women vulnerable; so, some portion of that line item will assuredly go to them. The question is how much, or, is this a sop, designed to placate women? What kind of movement toward adjudication of half the population of two countries is satisfactory?
In February, Senator Boxer and Senator Casey convened a joint hearing of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women’s Issues and on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs. The hearing was entitled “Afghan Women and Girls: Building the Future of Afghanistan.” Four people were invited to testify.
In her testimony, the Honorable Melanne Verveer, discussed the various ways in which the US is helping to women to change their lives. Then she mentioned that the State Dept was currently supporting four programs, for a total of 2 million dollars, which: “support women’s rights at the local level by engaging religious leaders and local officials to engage in the electoral process and develop women’s participation in local governance.” Another 26.3 million was engaged for small flexible grants to empower Afghan led NGO’s. No other monetary figures are mentioned.
In his testimony, James A. Bever, Director of the USAID Afghani-Pakistan task force, states that they have spent, in Afghanistan, an assistance estimate of 500 million on women and children since 2004, or 50 million a year.
Dr. Sima Samar had much to say on the distance yet to go in order to stabilize Afghanistan, citing lack of health care for women, lack of fundamental rights, and institutions that will train women on human rights democracy and advocacy. However, funding was not mentioned.
Finally, MS, Rachel Reid, for Human right Watch in Afghanistan recognized that 150 million was allocated this year, by the US. At the same time, her statement was the most disturbing, in regards to her views on the Taliban, and President Karzai’s recent moves to reduce women’s rights. While all the testimony was interesting, Reid’s made riveting reading. She also, however, failed to mention funding.
There may be other funding directed to women and children in the State Department’s budget for Afghanistan and Pakistan, but if it really so much more than the 78.3 million this year, mentioned in all that reporting and talking, that I found, you would have thought they would have crowed a heck of a lot louder. The sum of monies in the State Dept spread sheets in their report add up to 22,849.2 million or 22 billion for the years of 2009, 2010 and 2011, of which 3,252.5 million or 3.3 billion is defense related expenditures not counted by the Defense Dept. it’s really a hefty sum, that spreads out pretty equitably over the three years, averaging 8.43 billion.
Of course it’s true that the money is intended for the good of all the Afghani and Pakistani people. Energy projects are a prime example. Still, even though this is an improvement over what came before, it looks like a line item mentality to me, rather than real 51% participation for women.