The U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council Launches ‘University Network for Afghan Women’

Young Afghan girls wearing hijabs read a book together
Young female Afghan students in a classroom in Gereshk, Afghanistan. (Photo: POA(Phot) Sean Clee/MOD, OGL v1.0OGL v1.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

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Karen Teber

WASHINGTON (February 8, 2024) — The U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, based at Georgetown University, today launched the “University Network for Afghan Women,” an alliance of 11 founding colleges and universities from across the U.S. and beyond, in collaboration with the American University of Afghanistan, focused on supporting Afghan women and girls, who face some of the worst discrimination in the world.

The U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council is a nonpartisan public-private partnership that convenes governments, civil society and the private sector around the goal of supporting Afghan women and girls’ education, health care, economic empowerment and leadership.

U.S.-Afghan Women's Council graphic

Representatives from the member institutions met on Feb. 8 to discuss initial strategies for the network’s first year, including collaborating on course offerings, sharing best practices on creating and funding scholarships for Afghan students, and supporting Afghan women artists through the I Stand with You campaign.

“During the upheaval that we’re facing in our world today, it’s critical to continue to focus on all who are marginalized and to find ways to lift them up,” says Phyllis Magrab, PhD, vice chair of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council. “Our specific focus is on the women and girls in Afghanistan who have been deprived of their most fundamental human rights and face significant challenges related to their health and human development.”

Since their return to power in 2021, the Taliban has banned girls over the age of 12 from attending school and restricted women’s rights to work, move freely and go to public places. Many Afghans have fled Afghanistan, with around 125,000 seeking refuge in the United States.

“Over the past two years, U.S. universities have stepped up to help evacuate and support these new arrivals and to address the oppression and economic hardship of the 19 million women and girls remaining in Afghanistan,” says Magrab, a professor of pediatrics and director of Georgetown’s Center for Child and Human Development. “Through the U.S. Afghan Women’s Council at Georgetown University, we’re able to connect these universities and amplify our impact, and look forward to growing this important network.”

Founding members include American University of Afghanistan, Arizona State University, Boston University, Georgetown University, New York University, Northeastern Illinois University, Northwood University, Oklahoma State University, Stanford Center for South Asia, the Center for Governance and Markets at the University of Pittsburgh, and The University of Tulsa, as well as partner organizations Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Fund (AGFAF), ArtLords, the Institute of International Education (IIE), and the 30 Birds Foundation.

Members of the network are supporting Afghan women in a variety of ways, including:

  • Hosting the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council and boosting council members’ education, health, economic empowerment and civic leadership programs for women in Afghanistan
  • Leading the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security’s Onward for Afghan Women initiative to elevate the voices of Afghan women leaders as they continue their advocacy for Afghan women and girls
  • Providing online university education and English language training for Afghan women in Afghanistan and developing countries
  • Hosting the Alliance for Education of Women in Afghanistan, seeking to expand alternative educational opportunities for Afghan women and girls
  • Training Afghan women entrepreneurs
  • Providing scholarships and fellowships to Afghan women scholars and students
  • Hosting the Alliance for Afghan Women’s Economic Resilience, providing online education and mentorship opportunities for women in Afghanistan
  • Supporting Afghan women refugees in their communities through English language training, tuition scholarships, housing, and other wraparound support services
  • Offering Afghan studies programs with a gender focus
  • Advocating for the right of Afghan women to education and other basic human rights

The network plans to meet regularly to collaborate on current and additional projects.

About the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council

The U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council was founded in 2002 and is a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of State and Georgetown University. The council is based at Georgetown and is co-chaired by the president of Georgetown University, John J. DeGioia, and the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Geeta Rao Gupta.

Under the leadership of First Ladies Laura Bush and Hillary R. Clinton, both of whom serve together as the council’s honorary co-chairs, the council has worked to address areas of need identified by Afghan women, convening interested partners and brokering connections to meaningful sustainable platforms. Through the individual initiatives and collaborative efforts of its members, who are leaders in government, the private sector, academia and philanthropy, the council has taken steps to advance the lives of Afghan women and children.