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Women and Girls in the Afghanistan Transition

A CFR Working Paper

Author: , Adjunct Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy

Women and Girls in the Afghanistan Transition - catherine-powell-women-and-girls-in-the-afghanistan-transition

Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press

Release Date June 2014

24 pages


Although Afghan women and girls have made strides in education, the economy, health care, politics, and broader civil society since the 2001 U.S.-led intervention, these advances remain fragile. As Afghanistan transitions to a new presidency and the drawdown of U.S. troops continues through 2016, now is the time for the United States to take action, in coordination with Afghanistan and its partners, to cement and extend gender-equality gains, close the gaps, and prevent reversal. Despite a decreasing military footprint in Afghanistan, the United States has a unique ability and obligation to continue supporting Afghan efforts to improve women's security and leadership opportunities through diplomacy, defense, and development aid.

Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy Catherine Powell recommends several policies that would allow the United States to secure and broaden these gains, including interagency coordination led by the National Security Council, joint leadership of the Afghan Gender Task Force by the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and the ambassador-at-large for global women's issues, and prioritized goals of improving women's security and investing in women's rights and decision-making authority.

The advancement of women and girls correlates with gains in stability, security, and development. Given the mutual interest of the United States and Afghanistan in fighting terrorism and extremism and promoting economic sustainability, the United States should bolster gender equality before the drawdown is complete and continue working with Afghanistan to maintain these gains in the future.

This publication is part of the Council on Foreign Relations' Women and Foreign Policy program and was made possible by the generous support of the Women and Foreign Policy Advisory Council.

More About This Publication

Catherine Powell is a fellow in the Women and Foreign Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations. She has also been a professor at Fordham School Law since 2003, where she teaches international law, human rights, constitutional law, and comparative constitutional law. She took a leave from academia from 2009–2012 to serve on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Policy Planning Staff (on gender, human rights, and international organizations) and on the National Security Staff as director for human rights in the Obama administration. After a stint as a full-time visiting professor at Georgetown University School of Law from 2012–2013, she returned to the Fordham Law faculty.

She was founding director of both the Human Rights Institute and Human Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School, where she was a clinical professor from 1998–2002, and was a visitor scholar at the Hebrew University Faculty of Law in Jerusalem, Israel from 2002–2003. In addition to previously serving on the Human Rights Watch board, she has been a consultant on national security and human rights matters for the Washington-based think tanks, Center for American Progress and American Constitution Society. She is a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School and obtained a Masters in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. After her graduate work, she was a postgraduate Ford fellow in teaching international law at Harvard Law School and then clerked for Judge Leonard B. Sand in the Southern District of New York.

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