tv Book Discussion on We Are Afghan Women CSPAN April 30, 2016 11:00am-12:01pm EDT
>> thank you. [inaudible conversations] >> good afternoon, everyone. welcome to the u.s. institute of peace. my name is nancy lindborg, i'm the president of usip, and i am absolutely delighted to welcome here this afternoon for her first visit to usip mrs. bush. we're very happy to have you here. and i also want to welcome the ambassador from the islamic republic of afghanistan and mrs. mohib. delighted to have you here with us. and we have many other guests here in the room. thank you for joining us, thank you for coming this afternoon. and for those of you who are new to usip, we are an independent national institute founded by congress 30 years ago and dedicated to the proposition that peace is possible, peace is
practical and peace is essential for u.s. and international security. and we pursue a vision of a world without violent conflict by working in conflict zones with partners, equipping them with tools, with knowledge and with training. and there's probably no place where usip teams have spent more time than in afghanistan working with civil society and government partners to help make peace possible. so we're delighted to have today a panel discussion to discuss exactly who are some of the powerful women helping to make peace possible in afghanistan. and i have the distinct privilege of introducing our panelists and our moderator. let me note that we will have ushers coming down the aisle to collect your question cards for questions after opening remarks. if you have a question, please write down your name, your affiliation along with your
question on the card, and we will make sure that gets on stage. so, first, let me welcome mrs. laura bush, former first lady of the united states. she has long been an advocate for expanding the rights and opportunities of women in afghanistan. she's traveled to more than 76 countries including two historic solo trips to afghanistan. and today as the chair of the women's initiative at the george w. bush institute, mrs. bush continues her work on global health care innovation, empowering women in emerging democracies, education reform and supporting the men and women who have served in america's military. we also have with us today ms. mina sherzoy who's a gender activist with more than 25 years of experience in economic development and advocacy. and ms. sherzoy has extensive experience in capacity building
and ngo development in afghanistan. she's worked with the afghan civil service commission and government counterparts to increase women's participation in government. and currently, she serves as afghanistan base senior gender adviser and is also featured in the wonderful new book that we're here to celebrate by mrs. bush. finally, i'm delighted to introduce mr. stephen hadley who currently serves as the chair of usip's board of directors as our wise counsel and champion. previously, steve was the assistant to the president at the national security affairs for four years to then-president george w. bush. and from january 2001 to 2005, he was assistant to the president and deputy security adviser. please join me in giving a very
warm welcome to our three wonderful guests. [applause] [background sounds] >> all right. [laughter] >> we're delighted that all of you can be with us and, of course, mrs. bush, we are delighted to have you here at the u.s. institute of peace and delighted with your new book which is a series of and a collection of wonderful stories. and if you haven't read it, you really need to do so. it's a terrific book. what we're going to do this afternoon is we're going to have a conversation among mrs. bush, mina and myself for about 25 minutes or so, and then we're going to have a question-and-answer period from you. there are cards that have been
distributed. please write your questions on the cards, pass them to the aisles, and there will be runners coming down and getting them and passing them up to me, and we will try to get through as many questions as we can. we'll then at the end turn to our panelists, if you will, and ask for any closing comments, and then we will adjourn promptly at 5:00. so, again, we're delighted that you're all with us here for this wonderful event. i want to start, mrs. bush, with you if i might. >> sure. >> you have a long history of being a real advocate and champion for afghan women. you were the first first lady to deliver the presidential radio address in november of 2001, and you spoke about the plight, challenges and the strength of afghan women at that time. why is this such a cause for you? of all the things you could take on as first lady as a cause, why has, was afghan women so
important to you during your tenure as first lady? >> well, right after september 11th when the spotlight turned on afghanistan, american women -- including myself -- saw women who were margin withallized, marginalized, left out, and the very idea of a government that would forbid half of its population from being educated was shocking to americans, american men and women. a lot of people started calling me to say i want to do something, what can i do to help. and one of my best friends from houston called and said i used to be so glad i wasn't in your shoes. but she said now i wish i were. i'm jealous, because you can do something and i can't. so right then we formed the u.s. afghan women's council, and many american women thought of various projects to support our sisters in afghanistan. and that was really the beginning of my interest in afghanistan and in the women there.
so all the years that we lived at the white house and since i've stayed in contact with many women that i've met through the u.s. afghan women's council or met on my trips to afghanistan. i wanted to write about 'em. [laughter] >> and you said you wanted to write about them. why this book in this way? by the way, if you haven't seen it, it has a forward from mrs. bush. it's a wonderful -- [inaudible] of the tribulations of afghanistan over the last 25 years. it's wonderfully written. but why this book in this particular way? >> well, it's called voices of hope, and these are the stories of women in afghanistan. and because their voices were silenced, i thought it was important for all of us to hear what they had to say. besides that, i think things
have changed since september 11th, and things have changed since the that first time i visited afghanistan. and i wanted people to know that. so i think this is a great way for all of us to learn not only about each of these women and one man, one brave man, including his story, but also for us to learn more about the history of afghanistan. i think we think we know it all, but their lives really show the history of the last, say, 40 years of afghanistan. starting with, for many of them, when the soviets came in in 1979. and at that point some of these women immigrated to pakistan with their families. some of them ended up in the united states after that. but nearly all of 'em went back after september 11th when they could go back. some lived there the whole time, through the years of the soviet occupation and then the years of the taliban. and are still there. but i think -- i wanted to tell
their stories. i wanted americans to hear their stories, and i'm thrilled to have this opportunity to tell their stories with this book. >> you know, you're one of the people in that book, mina. >> yes. >> you were born in afghanistan, came to the united states, spent most of your young adult life in the united states until 9/11 which was traumatic for all of us. and so september 11, 2001, you decided to go back to afghanistan. tell us about your decision to return to afghanistan and what you've been doing there. your life there now that you have returned. >> sure. >> and first tell them why you weren't in afghanistan when -- was it when the soviets came in? >> yes. i was in there. first of all, i want to thank you, and i'm very privileged to be here on the stage with you, mrs. bush -- >> thank you. >> -- and mr. hadley. and i want to thank usip, as always, for putting together such a dynamic event and thank everybody to be a part of this
who are here today. i was young, had just graduated from high school, went to high school in kabul, and my father was a diplomat, and we were in sec slovakia. he was -- czechoslovakia. he was an ambassador at that time. we heard that the russians took over which was a shock. and it came in in such a shock that at first we didn't know, you know, like, okay, they invaded the country. i was so young, i didn't know the meaning of it. because afghanistan, like, i was raised in the golden ages, you know? we didn't think of war. i had never seen a gun before or a tank or anything else. so to me, it was like, okay, somebody invaded, and they will leave, and we will go back. so we slowly immigrated to the united states. even my father had the attitude that after three years we will
go back, and the american ambassador in germany gave my father -- he was going to give him citizenship, green card, everything. he said, no, no, no, no, i'm not going to do that. i'm going back in three years. so to make a long story short, we ended up staying for 25 years. [laughter] then september 11 happened. and when september 11 happened, of course, my father was one of the first people that went to afghanistan. and he was the deputy political foreign minister. so i saw the opportunity, because a lot of people were telling me don't go, don't go, it's dangerous. but deep inside all these 25 years i had such a passion to go back, and i always thought of the afghan people being there and suffering. and i always thought of having -- thankful and grateful for having all the opportunities that i had in the united states.
so how could i reach them. and so there was three of us, three women. one was in carmel -- i lived in california in the bay area. so the three of us decided to do fundraising for the afghan women, and we did fundraising before too because i used to do a lot of fundraisings and raised $2,000, $3,000 and send it to the camps, the best i could do. but this time it was different. the fundraising was like the doors had opened. so it's time to go now. time to go and give. time to go and help. and take people's hands and whatever the darkness has been in the past, let's overcome that. so that's why -- i've always wanted to go back, but until september 11th i couldn't because of the war and the the l ban and what was going on.
but because of that i decided to go back. yes. >> and what was it like when you went back? what was your first reactions? what was the environment after 2001? and then tell us a little bit about the environment now. >> i think being raised in the golden days, during the golden days of afghanistan and then being -- i'm really grateful for living in america. and to be honest with you, i cherish my life here because america gave me security, peace, serenity, education, opportunities, everything. and i went there actually, to be honest with you, for three weeks because i had two daughters. i have two daughters, and they were going to college at that time. so i said i'm going for three or four weeks, and i'll be back. [laughter] which i've never returned. [laughter] so when i went back, one thing that i found that triggered my heart and my mind at the same
time because when i landed, they took me -- the driver and my cousin, they took me to the american embassy to register for security reasons. being an american citizen, you had to register. so i got out of the car, and everything was done on the street at that time. so it was a better time. so i went ahead and started signing the papers and talking to the soldiers, and i turned around. this was, actually, march 14th when i landed there. so i turn around, i saw this 10-year-old boy or 9-year-old boy in raggedy clothes, barefoot, and it was kind of chilly. and he was polishing my cousin's shoes for a dollar. i just saw that, and i totally freaked out right there. because i started thinking how to i was raised. when i was 10 years old, my nieces, my daughters, my family, my friends' kids when they were
10 years old, they're in another world. they're not -- even when they grow older as parents, we ask them to polish our shoes. they never polished my shoes, even now. but that broke my heart right there. so what i did, the next thing i did was after we got through studying everything, i went to my -- i called my daughters. i said, look, there are people here, i have been around, there are girls that haven't been to school. they're your age. they can't even write their name. so i know you need me, i'm your mother. i'll always be there for you. but do you mind if i can stay here for a few years and help and take care of these girls and guide them and assist them in whatever way i can? and so they were so supportive, and i always tease them. i said, no, no, you just wanted
to get rid of annoying mom. [laughter] but they said, no, we knew your passion, we heard you on the phone, and we -- when we have time, we will come and help you. so i'm really appreciative of that, yes. otherwise i couldn't have been there. >> and word about the situation now. >> the situation now has changed. as we all know, we see through the newspapers. i just came back on wednesday. things have changed in afghanistan drastically. if you look at it from 14, 15 years ago when you look at women empowerment, education, health clinics, hospitals, the judiciary system. i mean, everything is not 100% perfect, but at least the seeds have been planted there, let's put it this way. the only thing that's really a barrier to development of any country or anything you do in life is security.
the insecurity and corruption, two things. like, for example, violation against women. i'll give you an example of that. first of all, there's a justice system in afghanistan. we have a lot of good laws, but there is no way of enforcing it. enforcing it because of the corruption gets in the way. so what i saw this time, i was there for three months. i went again for three weeks, i ended up for three months. so the security situation has really deteriorated. and i know a lot of businesses are closing. and a lot of people are becoming unemployed. so this kind of situation adds to the insecurity as well because when something, when something goes wrong, you don't know if it was -- [inaudible] it was the person who was hungry, you don't know who did it. >> yeah.
>> so right now that's the way things are. the security situation. but even though, let's put it this way, the security situation has deteriorated, but we keep pushing. >> thank you. >> we don't stop. >> thank you. ms. bush, you went to afghanistan in 2005, then again 2006, 2008. can you talk a little bit about those trips, what you learned, some of the insights you had and perhaps some of the women that you met during those trips some of whom probably show up in your book now. >> i once went to a province and met the female governor there, and it's the province that had the two huge, towering buddhas that were carved in niches in the mountain wall. and i knew what they looked like from photographs, but by the time i went, they'd been destroyed, and they were just
rubble at the bottom of these two huge niches that had been there since the sixth century but then destroyed by the tall ban. and then the idea that there was a female governor, which was the newer thing, newer since september 11th. and i remember coming to see her and what that was like and how thrilled i was to be there and see her. but then also this big symbol of the destruction of the ancient powermony really of afghanistan. >> and dud you meet -- did you meet some of the women at that time that are in your book now? >> i met most of the women that are in the book here in the u.s. through various things. let's see, there she is over
there, others whose stories -- mina, obviously, whose story is here. i've read -- when i've been on the book tour, i've read from mina's story. what she just told us, the story of seeing the little boy without shoes polishing the shoes of someone else and how that struck her and that picture stayed in her mind and led her to want to spend so much time there. so i've formed a lot of friendships with women in afghanistan. and it's been really, i mean, and some of them are in here, some of the women in this book i don't know. but there are a few of 'em here as well today. >> mina, i'd like to go back to something you started. there's a lot of intermittent press coverage here about afghanistan, most of it bad. you know, security's getting bad, taliban are on the move and all the rest. and i think we don't often appreciate how far the country has come.
and you started to talk a little bit about that. could you say a little bit more about what has really been accomplished here in the last 4 years or so? 14 years or so? >> like i said earlier, we have accomplished a lot. fifteen years ago we didn't have girls going to school, we didn't have clinics for women, we didn't have women ministers, we didn't have women in parliament. so i can go on and on, especially businesswomen, women advocates. the first year when i was there -- let me, let me explain it to you this way. when i first went there, i was looking for women to, that they're typing -- doing the handicraft and carpet weaving, and i was looking for them all over the place. and you couldn't find them, even in burkas on the street. so i kept asking i just want to see, like, 10 or 15 women that i
could work with and i could talk to and maybe i could teach them something for economic empowerment purposes. he said, okay, why don't you come on a friday, and i will go ahead and show you the 15 and 20 women so you can work with them. i kind of didn't tell anybody where i was going because i know if i tell my dad i was going to this mosque, he will send ten guards with me or he wouldn't let me go. [laughter] so i was afraid. but i did go with my friends. and to be honest with you, i walked into that mosque. i saw hundreds, hundreds of women with burkas sitting there. and their back was facing me when i entered, and i stood there and said, you've got to be kidding me. what am i going to do with these hundreds and hundreds of women? so i stood there, i pretty much gave them a message and talked to them saying that i'm here to help, i'm here to empower them so that they're not needy,
they're not a charity case anymore because i'm very against becoming a charity case for the afghan women. so you have to learn. you have to work and earn your money in order to raise your children, help your family and husband and everyone. so i left there. that's what encouraged me to put together an ngo. so i put together an ngo for widows especially, and i registered over 10,000 women. and in six years, then we did an assessment. and to be honest, in 10,000 women i had only 56 literate women. that's only high school i'm talking. high school which is some of them were eighth grade, ninth grade. so they were could literate. so this is what happened. and then i was able to get, you know, funds from different institutions, donors, and i did the capacity building and
tailoring, english, literacy and computer classes that we started expanding. but looking today, you see a lot of afghan women out there. this is what i'm trying to compare. on that time, you know, you couldn't find anybody. but now you find hundreds and thousands of women out there even in the provinces or in kabul, on media, for example. you see them on, in television, they're journalists, the teachers. i mean, they're all over the place. so it's not that difficult to find afghan women now, thank god. [laughter] >> one of the things in mrs. bush's forward, there are some very nice statistics showing the progress on health and education. one that struck me, i think teenage girls now 36% literacy, 37% of the teachers in
afghanistan are now women. so really remarkable progress. and, mrs. bush, i know one of the things at the institute and the presidential library you have been very instrumental in the women's initiative at the bush institute, continuing the work you started as first lady. what kinds of activities are going on in that project within the bush institute? >> well, at the bush institute we've had four classes of women fellowships, two from egypt and two from tunisia. we began with those two with countries because they were the first and most active in the arab spring countries. we bring women all from the same country for a fellowship so that when they go home, they have each other, and they can introduce each other to their colleagues and their families and their friends and thereby broaden their networks.
there's a new professor that did research that shows that your network is as important as your education level to your success. and in societies where women are inside more, they didn't have the chance to build the kind of networks that we as american women do. so we've had now four classes, two egyptian classes and two tunisian fellows, and we'll do another group this year of egyptian fellows. and our idea is just to continue to focus on these two so when they go home, they really have a broad network now with the two groups and everybody else they've introduced each other to. so that's one of the things that we're working on as part of our women's initiative. we have a women's health initiative. in africa we've added the testing and treatment for cervical cancer which is the leading cause of cancer death among african women to the pepfar platform, the aids
platform that was set up went george was president, the president's emergency man for aids -- plan for aids relief that's all across africa now. it's helped africans build an infrastructure with pepfar money treating aids to start with, but now adding the testing and treatment for curve call cancer too -- cervical cancer to that. so that's our global health initiative which, of course, is focused on women as well. we have a first ladies' initiative. we began in africa with african first ladies to talk about how they can use their roles in their countries while their husbands are head of state to work on issues that are important to them. we've tried to match them with ngos or corporations that are active in their countries and then talk about good governance. and one african woman said, well, i know the government paid for your clothes. [laughter] and we said, no, they didn't.
[laughter] milan happened to be there, and she immediately said, no, they did not, thinking about mrs. clinton. [laughter] but we do talk about good governance and the ways that first ladies can help, and now we've broadened that to more than just african first ladies. we have a first ladies' initiative with first ladies from all around the world. what else? there's charity, she's the head of our women's initiative at the bush institute. [applause] oh, and then, of course, the u.s. afghan women's council which we just came from a meeting of here. so african -- i mean, afghan first ladies are a part of our projects as well. working with afghan women. and that's obvious. i mean, that's what this book is, and that's why we're here today. >> and one of the things i thought is nice is it really
is -- i was honored, had the privilege of sitting in on the meeting today. it is a bipartisan effort. i mean, this is one area where republicans and democrats have worked together, and i thought it was interesting that former secretary of state hillary clinton wrote a nice blurb on the back of the book. >> that's right. [laughter] >> and i think it continues to be a bipartisan effort here by the american people, by the congress, and that's a wonderful thing. mina, i'd like to go back to you, if i might, and just ask you what is the sort of the frame of mind, the spirit of afghan women today? what are they thinking about? what are their hopes, particularly the young women who have seen such change in their lives? what's, you know, when you talk to them -- >> sure. >> -- what's their frame of mind today? what are their hopes? what are their fears? >> the frame of mind of afghan women, like i said earlier, it has changed through the time of the first, of the past, in the past 14 years.
they're not the same afghan women that they were 14 years ago. they have come a long way. they are, they have learned their rights in every way, and they're still learning. i'm not saying the whole country knows all the women. they know their rights, but they're still learning. and the other thing is they have learned how to advocate. and their spirit is high all the time. one thing i've found about afghan women no matter if it was the golden ages of afghanistan or the bad days or -- it doesn't matter where they are, how they are, how bad it is, they have a high spirit. they're very brave, they're very courageous, and they have this strong inner hope that it keeps them going all the time. i have seen women that have really been through a lot of hardship, and it just surprises
me that how she comes to work the next day with a smile on her face and still you don't know what she has been through. and it's that mask that she wears, i call it. it's that mask that she wears in order to look strong, to move on and to convince her children and her family it's okay, that everything will be fine. and, of course, just like everybody else afghan women are like the other women in the world. we're not any different than the afghan women. it's just the differences, what kind of opportunities are given to them and what kind of opportunities are given to us. that's the difference. and the insecurity also plays a major role for them. and security also plays a major role for them. so afghan women, overall,
they're in high spirits, and their dream is to be just like everybody else, a normal mother, normal wife, normal citizen. and they just want to live just like everybody else. even though, like i said, things are really getting rough these days. but i don't know if you have seen the news and all that how they're pushing on the -- [inaudible] case. they're going, they're advocating, they're all over the place, just one example. so nothing stops them. >> we're going to turn shortly to some questions from the audience. i have lots of good questions, we'll try to get through as many of hem as we can. i'd -- them as we can. i'd like to have a question really for each and both of you before we do that. one is sort of on balance are you hopeful for the future of afghanistan, and what can we, the international community and we as americans, do to try to sustain the gains that have been made? mrs. bush, can i start with you?
>> i am hopeful, and i'm hopeful partly because of what mina said. because i do know the spirits and the strength of afghan women. and i think that comes across in the book and in the stories of the women that are interviewed in the book. so that makes me hopeful. i also think that the whole international community -- we in the united states as well as the whole international community -- needs to continue to do whatever we can to support women in afghanistan and support the afghan people. we need to help them build an economy so people can have jobs, so people can make money, so that people can be, become independent. those are the things that we need to continue to do. but i also was heartened that president obama chose to keep our troops there. i think we need to keep the troops there. we need to make sure that afghanistan has the security to be able to build the stability to form their government and continue to work on what they're
working on. i know mrs. ghani, the new first lady of afghanistan, is very effective. she's a member of our u.s. afghan women's council that met earlier today and sent a message to us. she's helping to build a women's university with women professors so that still when the traditional fathers don't want their daughters to go to university because of going with men or having men professors, that there'd be an option for women. and i think that's a good way that americans could support her, and that is to try to help in that way as she builds this women's university. but, obviously, the most important thing is the security. and our troops can help on that. >> mina, same question to you. are you hopeful? [laughter] and what should we be doing? >> well, i acknowledge mrs. bush, and i agree because without security, security is the number one thing. without security you cannot move
forward. everything starts collapsing around you. and we don't want the international community to leave as well. we have started something as the international community, and we have to continue and make it really solidify, you know? make it happen and show the world that, you know, we were there not, let's say, 15 or 20 or 30 years and it happened. you just don't want to leave a country in chaos when it's in chaos. and that shows the failure on the international -- [inaudible] so we have to continue what we're doing, and we have to really pour more money into development in the military. i'm sorry. it's just if we have capable people and if people have food on the table and they have jobs, why would you need military? this is a question from me, because i'm not a politician, but i'm an activist. [laughter]
that comes to me all the time. so for me first comes the development. yes, we do have to train police to a limit, we do have to train our military because of our neighbors. but if you have good citizens and if you don't have hungry citizens who can be bought by your neighbors or by any politician or anybody, i mean, you will have a stable country. but unfortunately, for the past 14, 15 years, yes, a lot of money has been poured, but it hasn't really been poured into the real, real development side of it. it has been a lot into the military and police which has not been veryfective either. very effective either. so even now a lot of the money has been allocated to the defense and military. but i think the if we could just add to that and pour, you know, administer money to development -- add more money to
development to develop people to give them jobs, to create jobs. the other thing that has happened with the trainings, we train, but we don't follow. we can train all we want. there should be a follow-up program maybe up to a year. not short term, but long term. yeah, we can do the trainings a month, two months or then everybody leaves, okay? so many women were trained and so many men and, okay, big pictures and done. but we have to follow up. has this person really found a job? if this training was effective. if it wasn't effective, then what should we do to make it effective? because we have already spent a lot of money, and we want to see the, a result that's successful to everybody; to the donor, to the afghan people, to everyone. so that's where i'm coming from. i don't want anybody to leave, but to get more money added to the development side of it. >> good.
>> spirit is a security issue as well. >> yes. >> in fact, i think one of the reasons that the taliban was that little boys were put in these madrassas, but their parents put them there because they were hungry, and they got fed. so the food ends up being a security issue as well. i wanted to -- i've been reading this one part of the book that i think fits what we're talking about right now. in the rest of the world, we live in a very fast-paced life. we want everything to happen in front of our eyes. we don't think about the future. we don't invest in the future, unfortunately. and that needs to change. i'm sure other nations have gone through this societal change probably hundreds of years ago. i think it'll happen in afghanistan. we just have to be patient and not give up, because once you give up, you have to start from scratch all over again. >> here here.
this, talking about the nonsecurity side and an issue that's very dear to the heart of usip, this is a question from barbara from pae for both of you. the u.s. government is implementing the largest rule of law program of its kind in the world in afghanistan. what should be its focus in the next five to ten years particularly as it pertains to women and girls? mina, do you want to take a shot at that one? >> sure. [laughter] >> good luck. [laughter] >> like i mentioned earlier, the rule of law, we have laws. we have many laws. needs to be enforced. we have to learn how to enforce laws and how to use laws. i remember i did have in my ngo for two months i had a training for women lawyers. this was probably ten years ago. and it was very interesting for
me to find out that one of the lawyers, she was being abused by her husband at home, but then she would get out and go to court and try to defend everybody else. so when i found that out, i sat her down. i said if you cannot defend yourself, how can you defend others? she started crying. she goes even when i'm standing there trying to defend others, i'm not making it. because the judges that are there, they have already been paid, or they're stronger than me, or the one who's across the table from me, the other judge, the opponent, i mean, the lawyer is stronger than me, and i'm always -- i always get defeated. this is why i need this training. we need to really focus on women and judges and the attorneys starting from the university. that's where we need to start working. maybe the second and third year of the law university to start
kind of practicing with them and advocating for them and teaching them how to defend themselves first. in the house -- if you cannot defend yourself within your home, within your own circle, then you cannot defend yourself outside or defend anybody else. and i also know lawyers and attorneys in afghanistan that are women. let me tell you, they're very tough. but there's just a few. there aren't that many. and i think we need to really tap and focus on the younger generation that are going to be the next lawyers because the lawyers that are there from the past may be 45 or 50, that age. i'm not trying to discriminate or anything. it's really hard for them to change their way of work and their way of implementation and attitude and all. but one thing we can focus on is the younger generation and teach
them to really be the real lawyer to be in that court to one, to go with an attitude that i can win. so that's what i think. [laughter] >> good job. [laughter] >> thank you. >> next question. [laughter] >> don't ask such a hard one. >> they're all hard. one of the ones, there's sort of two that are related. one comes from marisa of georgetown university and is a question for mina. i'd like to first ask this one really, again, for both of you. this is from -- [inaudible] of the afghan news. i probably mispronounced that, i apologize. there's been on-and-off-again peace talks with the the taliba, uncertain how it will go. do the women, ms. bush, that you
work with and some of the women in the book that you know and have talked to -- and, mina, for you as well -- are there fears about the peace process and fears of a peace agreement between the afghan government and taliban for what it will mean for women, for what it will mean for the progress that women have achieved since 2001? >> you go ahead. [laughter] it depends on what you give up to make peace with the taliban. >> yeah. >> the latest i read is they left the table, the taliban. have they come back or do you know? does anybody know here? >> they have left -- the taliban have left the table. recently, i think in the last couple days, one of the folks has indicated that he is willing to participate in in the afghan peace process. i think it's still on-again/off-again.
but the question is really are there some anxieties -- >> sure there are. of course. >> there is a lot of anxiety, especially among women through peace process. and if you look at the whole picture, the long-term picture, if you have a peace council that was created years ago, when you have 70 men and 5 women or 6 women, how do you arrive at peace? because those five or six women that were selected, they also cater to whatever that 65 or 70 men are saying. so women are in minority. and women are scared. >> of course they are. >> they're in anxiety. again, they're fighting this in every way they can, and they are. so they don't get sacrificed, you know, during the peace
process. so they, like, during the taliban times how women were she e colluded -- secluded from everything, and they don't want that to happen again because we have gained so much for the past 14 years, and there is no way we will sacrifice that. no way. it doesn't matter, i mean, i could tell you this because i come from -- i always have these gatherings, these women, and when they come from these meetings, you should see their faces. over my dead body, that was their -- that's how they speak. there is no way i'm going to give up what i've gaped in 14 years -- gained in 14 years, and politicians, i'm sorry -- [laughter] will sacrifice my right to the talib in order to bring peace. that is not peace at the end of the day. we're isolating half of the population. so i don't think it will happen.
it's just an ongoing thing. there is a lot more involved to it than the women. it is what our neighbor countries are asking for. they're asking for a lot of things that afghan people are not going to give up. so that's my understanding of the peace council. >> we've talked a lot about women and girls and the important role they have in the afghan society and the important role now in peace building. one of the things that came up in the meeting earlier today was related to this question that's unsigned, as you will. how important do you think efforts are to reach men and boys in addition to women and girls if we are to change the culture and values of the society? >> well, that has to be done. for sure. reach men and boys. i said earlier in the u.s. afghan women's council meeting that one of my friends said to me i don't know why you're
working with the women, it's the men that need the work. [laughter] and there are efforts, and we did hear that in the meeting earlier, to work with men -- or boys especially, to talk about peace and conflict resolution and all of those other things. but i think what happened is these boys weren't parented, the ones that are group up now that are the terrorists or the taliban. they didn't have parents who taught them how to be men. and have taught them how to, you know, mother and dad that taught them how to live. instead they were sent to these madrassas, and they were brainwashed, and they were not taughting -- taught how to get along with people. and that's what a family, a good family does. a mother and a father. and that is teach all the children, the boys and the girls, how to get along with other people and that other
people's lives matter too. >> mina? >> i agree with you, mrs. bush. but there's one thing in being in afghanistan for the past 14 years that i've recognized. yes, we first have to work with the boys, with the men. because if the men and the boys are brought up pro-women, then we don't have to -- >> exactly. >> and in the meantime, what has war done to these men? we have to look at it this way, and i cannot blame them most of the time. it's because that boy that was born 30 years ago, he was born during the war. and you have to be protective of the women and children and the girls during the war. so he was -- then the taliban came, so that was like an icing on the cake for this whole thing, the mentality. so that boy has been raised with that a type of a mentality,
protect your woman, don't show your woman, don't show the girl. and right now we're going through a social change. and it's going to take time. it's going to take probably another generation or two for men to come out and say, yeah, it's okay for -- really in a very normal way that we're doing it here, you know? it's okay if my daughter goes to work, it's okay if my daughter goes to the movies, it's okay if my daughter does this or that or my wife. right now you see these challenges, it's because of the war. the war has brainwashed the men in afghanistan. and that generation is still there. and it's going to be there for another maybe 30 years. but it's going to take a long time maybe two or three generations so you can really see the change. >> this is a related question from mira who's a student at george mason university. it's a little long, but it's a
good one. as a first generation afghan-american, i've been raised how to balance my afghan heritage with my western surroundings. given that afghanistan has a patriarchal-structured society, what clashes or conflicts have you seen arise as a result of the resistance to women's equality that some may view as a western idea rather than an afghan idea? and how have you seen balance created with tradition and so-called western idea of women's equality and empowerment? >> okay. >> go ahead. [laughter] >> it's beginning to be like jeopardy. >> exactly. [laughter] >> well, the first thing that's very common is the word jenner. jenner -- gender. the word gender in afghanistan, i mean, gender is equality and empowerment between men and women and all of that. i mean, we know what it means.
i includes male and female. but when you talk about gender in afghanistan, they all talk about, they all think women. they think it's a western thing to have equal rights of women. while, to be honest with you, in islam we do have equal rights for women. there are rights for women. there are good rights for women. and what happened in the beginning when we all first went, everybody went in without doing their homework. everybody brought in their western ideas and unloaded in afghanistan without thinking what is the culture, what is the acceptance of all of these thing? how will people take this? so when we started all these gender trainings, it didn't go very well. [laughter] so you had to rename these things and really let people
know what it really means. and as an afghan-american when i've been there, i've watched. they would perceive you as an afghan no problem. but later in the day, you know, they say, okay -- they will say, okay, you're here, i know you're helping me, i know you did this for me, but you know what? you have a passport, you're going to leave. you have that option. and i always tell them, yes, i have that option, but i'm here no matter what. and that's one of the reasons -- these are all the perceptions because afghan people, they really have to trust you. and i don't blame them for not trusting anybody because, to be honest, everybody has come in and invaded and left in ruin and took. so they don't trust anybody. and it has to do with the war and the way they have been treated.
and now for the past 14 years, yes, thanks to international community, thanks to all the donors they have been there, they have pushed issues for women. like, for example, politically to be in the senate, to be in the parliament, to be in the government, i mean, the four ministers. so it has been the foreign push as well, not only the government. but still they have these doubts. until you overcome those doubts with the western issues -- >> yeah. >> -- they will doubt the western issues. anything you put forward, they will think twice whether, okay, whether it comes from germany, it comes from egypt or it comes from america. it doesn't matter. as long as it's from a foreign entity, they think twice. they think -- they just don't want to go for anything anywhere. they'll think twice and say yes or no. >> thank you very much. we regrettably have come to the end of our time. i want to thank all those who submitted questions and my
apologies who submitted questions we didn't get to. i'd like to turn to our panelists and just ask if you'd like a last word before nancy comes up -- >> well, i'd like to introduce the women who are in this book. would you all stand? the women who have come that are in the book? [applause] and i also want to say i think we've left too bleak of a picture. it's not as bad as we made it sound today. it is important that we all stay involved as americans in afghanistan, it's important that we keep our troops there and to try to give afghans the security and the space of security as they continue to build their country. and for all the international community to continue to do the
things they're doing. in our meeting earlier with the u.s. afghan women's council one of the things we thought is so many nonprofits have gone in, maybe we ought to figure out how to get some for-profits into afghanistan so they can -- [applause] three or four can be employed and make money and try to figure out ways to help develop the country so that the afghan government can stand up and be the ones that take care of things in afghanistan. >> mina. >> okay. i just want to add something to all of this. when i saw the book, mrs. bush, i'm really honored as always to be around you -- >> thank you. >> and i'm thankful to the u.s. afghan women's council. they have done an incredible job. when i saw the book, it reminded me -- it took me back to 14 years ago. so i want to read something to
you, i just don't want to mess up. [laughter] the honorable mrs. bush. i would like to thank you on behalf of afghan men and women for all the work you have supported and cared -- and the care you have given the afghan women and children. you even went to -- [inaudible] i do remember those days. i gave my first lobbying speech in chicago in 2004 in front of 400 american businessmen and women. i had to convince many leaders with my speech to believe in afghan women's capacity. and to fund for the projects. after a long speech, i ended with the following sentence with a lot of hope. this is what the afghan woman says. still after her pain she says, i feel like the thunder or, the dark days and the storm has
left. the sun is out now. i just started blooming like a rose. this rose needs tender love and care to fully bloom. i do not want to die again. mrs. bush, through your leadership you have played a major role in watering these seeds by building capacity, and today you have recognized a few of the blooming flowers in your book. because 14 years ago it was not possible. and i thank you from my heart. >> thank you, mina. thank you so much. [applause] that's so, so sweet. [applause] thank you very much. [applause] thanks, everybody. thank you, steve. [applause] >> on behalf of all of us here today and on behalf of u.s. institute of peace, i want to
thank mrs. laura bush, ms. mina sherzoy and, of course, mr. steve hadley, our chair. thank you for reminding us that after 37 years of war, it will take a long time, maybe generational, to fully emerge from that conflict but that there are extraordinary signs of progress and much hope. and so thank you for your collective passion and inspiration this afternoon as we look at the pathway forward. mrs. bush, a special thanks for you for what you've done for afghan women and women around the world with your work at the bush institute, and thank you for bringing these beautiful, powerful stories to all of us with your wonderful new book, "voices of hope." and it's been an honor to host everybody here today. i want to ask everybody to, please, stay seated while the panel departs the stage. and please join me in one more round of thanks and applause for our wonderful panel. [applause]
[inaudible conversations] ♪ >> when i tune into it on the weekends, usually it's authors sharing their new releases. >> watching the nonfiction authors on booktv is the best television for serious readers. >> on c-span they can have a longer conversation and delve into their subjects. >> booktv weekends, they bring you author after author after