U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, told New Hampshire reporters Monday that women in Afghanistan want to make sure their daughters have the right to an education and a place in the workforce.
Shaheen spoke with reporters by phone from Iraq. She also visited Afghanistan over the weekend with Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed and Alabama Sen. Doug Jones.
“When the Taliban were in control, the women were not allowed to work. They really were not allowed out without a male companion. They had to be covered at all times,” Shaheen said of the oppression women in Afghanistan faced.
Shaheen said in the past few days, she has spoken to some of the leaders among the women fighting for their rights. One woman told her, “They told me they would accept me as a mother, as a sister, as a wife.”
“She said, ‘I don’t want to be accepted as all of those. I want to be accepted as a citizen of Afghanistan with all of the rights citizens should have,’” Shaheen said.
Shaheen said women have also been playing an instrumental role in efforts to bring peace to the country. An upcoming demonstration is expected to draw about 10,000 people, she said.
Shaheen recognized that ending the conflict in Afghanistan is important so the economy there can grow, and people can find prosperity outside of mining and building wartime products.
The country is already showing strong progress with exports, increasing from $596 million in 2016 to an estimated $1 billion in 2018, according to www.usaid.gov.
“That’s another reason why, at any negotiated settlement, women need to continue to be part of the government and part of the economy because women contribute significantly to the economy and that’s growing on a regular basis, and if you go back to a time when the Taliban was in control, you’re losing half of the population that can contribute to the economy,” Shaheen said.
According to Reuters, the Taliban’s main spokesman said on Monday there will be women included for the first time in talks this week with U.S. officials and Afghan representatives.
Zabihullah Mujahid said the women have no family relationships with senior members of the Taliban. Rather, they are Afghans from inside and outside the country “who have been supporters and part of the struggle of the Islamic Emirate.”
Taliban spokesmen say the group has changed, and they encourage education for girls and other rights for women within an Islamic Sharia system, according to Reuters.
The April 19 to 21 meeting in Doha, Qatar, will be the latest in a series of talks between the Taliban and U.S. officials and is expected to include a 150-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures, according to Reuters.
Shaheen said she expects to return to the United States by the end of the week.