Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Afghan Women and Children Relief Act of 2001

November 27, 2001


WASHINGTON - Yesterday Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) spoke in favor of the Afghan Women and Children Relief Act of 2001 (S. 1573). The bill authorizes the provision of educational and health care assistance to the women and children of Afghanistan. It passed the House of Representatives by a voice vote.

Ms. PELOSI. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentlelady for the recognition and commend her for managing her first bill. How appropriate that the gentlewoman from Nevada (Ms. BERKLEY) would be managing the bill to assist Afghan women, a bill sponsored by women, for women and managed by women, presided over by women.

I commend the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN) for her excellent statement and leadership and the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. PRYCE) for her leadership as the author, along with the gentlewoman from California (Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD) for her leadership on this important bill.

I, too, want to join in commending the Bush administration. It was quite a remarkable day when the First Lady of our country, for the very first time maybe, addressed the White House radio address alone on an issue, and how appropriate that that issue would be the plight of Afghan women and the need for there to be more assistance from the United States. Yes, to help with medical and humanitarian assistance but also to ensure that in the government that is formed in Afghanistan that women will have a leadership role and be part of the decision making.

Our colleagues have very clearly spelled out the suffering of the Afghani women during the time of the Taliban regime, and indeed even preceding that girls were not educated fully in Afghanistan. Preceding the takeover by the Taliban, women constituted 70 percent of the teachers in Afghanistan, 50 percent of the government workers, 40 percent of the health professionals; and, of course, with the onset of the Taliban regime they were forbidden from working. Women suffered, girls suffered, but everyone suffered. Who taught the little boys? Because 70 percent of the teachers were women. So everyone in Afghanistan suffered, and everyone in Afghanistan will benefit under the provisions of H.R. 3330 which authorizes educational and health care assistance to the women and children of Afghanistan.

Madam Speaker, I think it is important to note that the United States is the single largest contributor of a huge amount of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, and this well preceded September 11, very much preceded September 11.

I was pleased to serve under my ranking member, the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. LOWEY), and was our former ranking member on the Committee on Foreign Operations with the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. CALLAHAN) as my chairman. He beefed up, I would say, the Child Survival Account, now we call it the Callahan Account, now under the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. KOLBE).

We appreciate this authorization coming as it does. When we go back to do the appropriation for next year, we will be fully armed with the authority to take money as it spells out in the bill from the Child Survival and Health Programs, UNICEF, immunization, safe injections, maternal health, medical equipment, women and development, children's basic education and refugee assistance, and whatever other accounts and amounts might be available under the 2001 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act.

One other point I want to make, Madam Speaker, is I think women of America deserve a great deal of commendation because they early on talked about the plight of women in Afghanistan long before September 11.

It is completely appropriate that the Congressional Women's Caucus is taking the lead on this issue. It is a reflection of the mood of our country, as was clearly demonstrated by the willingness of the First Lady to make this her first White House radio address; and how proud we were of her in doing that, as I said before.

But the women of America are the ones who spoke out early and said, look, listen, see what is happening in Afghanistan. It was an early bellwether of awful things to come. So I think this leadership role played by women should be recognized, should be heeded; and one giant step we can take in doing that is to pass H.R. 3330. Again, I commend all my colleagues for their leadership on this.


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