About the Campaign
The Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) has been working to help Afghan Women and Girls since 1996: first, with our campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid, then after the Taliban regime collapsed, and now during the Afghan Reconstruction. The Feminist Majority Foundation Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls has four major components: Public Education and Community Organizing, Public Policy Research and Strategy Development, Global Outreach, and support of Humanitarian Aid to Afghan Women-led Organizations and to programs serving Afghan Women and Girls.
The campaign, chaired by Mavis Leno, was the first of its kind to build a U.S. grassroots constituency around a foreign policy issue of women’s rights. It successfully brought the Taliban regime’s atrocities against women and girls in Afghanistan to the attention of the United States and the world. In 2002, the Feminist Majority Foundation intensified its nationwide public education campaign for Afghan women and girls to win the full and permanent restoration of women's rights, promote the leadership of women in the planning and governing of post-Taliban Afghanistan, increase and monitor the provision of emergency and reconstruction assistance to women and girls, urge the expansion of peacekeeping forces, and support the Afghan Ministry for Women's Affairs, the Afghan Independent Rights Commission and Afghan women-led non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Because of our work on behalf of Afghan women and girls, the Feminist Majority Foundation was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.
With the support of literally tens of thousands, our work was key in stopping U.S. and U.N. recognition of the Taliban and in winning extensive funding for Afghan women’s programs, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA). In total up to 2010, we have helped to win some $367 million in U.S. funding of Afghan women and girls’ programs. In July, 2013, Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development announced that USAID was launching a new five year program "targeting the education, promotion, and training of a new generation of Afghan women, ages 20-30. Towards this effort USAID is pledging $110 million and has set the ceiling for the program at $416 million seeking another $110 plus million from other international donors. FMF's work first to end gender apartheid in Afghanistan and then to help Afghan women and girls over these past 11 years since the fall of the Taliban has had tangible impact. We have repeatedly urged the funding and strengthening of Afghan women-led groups and women’s right organizations in Afghanistan as well as women’s programs.
Background - Feminist Majority Foundation's Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid
In 1997, The Feminist Majority launched the Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan to urge the US government and the U.N. to do everything in their power to restore the human rights of Afghan women and girls. Chaired by Mavis Leno, the Feminist Majority Foundation's campaign has brought together more than 110 leading human rights and women's organizations to condemn the Taliban's human rights abuses against women and girls and to put pressure on the US and UN to end gender apartheid in Afghanistan.
The Campaign was successful in increasing public awareness about the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan, preventing US and UN recognition of the Taliban, increasing the admission of Afghan women and girls as refugees, increasing humanitarian aid to the region and pressuring UNOCAL, a California oil company to abandon its plans for an Afghan oil and gas pipeline which would have produced over $100 million annually in royalties for the Taliban.
With the fall of the Taliban regime, the Feminist Majority Foundation renamed its campaign and began working to convey to the world that women are an essential part of the solution for the future of Afghanistan .
Through our website, media interviews, news stories, op-eds, visibility events, speaking engagements, organizational briefings, online organizing, and public education materials, the Feminist Majority Foundation has worked to bring public attention to the fragility of women's rights in Afghanistan, absence of major reconstruction activity, and persistent security needs as well as the return of extreme fundamentalist militias and the Taliban to regions of Afghanistan. Our online Daily Feminist News provides ongoing reports and updates on the situation of women's rights and human rights in Afghanistan . Our website also provides opportunities for online activism on behalf of Afghan women and girls. With the news stories, we provide online action alerts, such as urging expansion of peacekeeping forces and increased funds for reconstruction.
Afghan Women's Scholarship Program
This program enables young Afghan women to pursue higher education in the U.S. Our campaign asks U.S. college and universities to donate tuition and, if possible, room and board for Afghan women to study in the U.S. Each of the scholarship recipients are committed to help other Afghan women and girls. In 2014, 37 Afghan women are studying in the United States under this program. Since its inception, 96 women have been served by this program. The Feminist Majority Foundation also provides supplemental assistance for books and other expenses for Afghan women who have received scholarships through other sources.
29 Afghan women have now graduated from four year U.S. colleges and universities, nine have earned their associates degrees and are continuing their educations, seven have achieved masters degrees, and two have earned Ph. D degrees. Many have returned to Afghanistan and two are currently working in Afghan governmental agencies. Others are wanted to further the status of Afghan women and girls through education, healthcare, and the media.
Policy Research and Strategy Development
From its inception, our Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls has been based on primary research. Throughout the campaign, we have interviewed Afghan women leaders about the plight of Afghan women and girls and our staff has traveled into the region and to Afghanistan many times, most recently in 2013. Our ability to report first-hand on conditions in the region has significantly increased our credibility with policy makers, enhanced our ability to propose concrete policy changes, and strengthened our advocacy campaign.
The Feminist Majority Foundation has provided direct funding to Afghan women's NGOs and other forms of direct assistance from its own funds. In addition to providing grants, we have provided technical assistance to small, women-led non-profits, helping with grant-writing and circulating their proposals among other funders.
Afghan Women's Craft Project
Our Afghan Women's Craft project raises additional funds for Afghan women and girls through on-line sales. Crafts are made by Afghan women or provided by Afghan organizations. All proceeds go to benefit Afghan women and girls.
The Feminist Majority Foundation has provided leadership for the feminist community on the issues faced by Afghan women and girls for the past 16 years. We have constantly briefed and provided materials to our colleagues in other women’s and human rights organizations about developments in the country and the need of Afghan women led organization, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Coalition. We work in coalition with Afghan women’s organizations, as well as US and international women’s rights and human rights organizations.
Photos above by David Gill, Sharon Lovell and A. Wright