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In May I was honored to be a part of the small guest list, 150 people to spend a day in Chicago for the Womens NATO SHADOW SUMMITT CONFERENCE to address AFGHAN WOMENS RIGHTS and the concerns of what will be next for women when the USA continues to pull out of Afghanastan.

The NATO conference was in Chicago. As you may not know there are no women in attendance.,

At this shadow conference the panel consisted of:

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

Afifa Azim, General Director and co-founder of the Afgan Women's Network

Manizha Naden, Executive Director of Women for Afghan Women

Mahbouba Seraj, Executive Board Member of the Afgahan Women's Network

Jan Schakowski, U.S. Representative from Illinois

The conference underscored the concern for women being ignored their basic rights. While there has been progress the main chilling concern is what happens in the near future. It was made clear by these Afgan women that they will not go back to square one, they would go back to much worse than square one and we CANNOT let that happen. This was emphasized over and over. SOS, Hillary Clinton, has stated that we would not abandon these women. Yet it is not clear how we would concretely continue to support and move them forward. Ms. Albright told us that Clinton is building an underbelly of women like threads who will surface and help the cause.

it was stated that there is a disconnect between the way the USA sees the problem and the way the Afghans see it. It is common knowledge schools are burned and school girls poisoned.

They stated the Taliban is supported by Pakistan, That we are better off negotiating with Pakistan than the Taliban and that the negotiations should be on policy.

It was a chilling moment when the moderator asked the women what other organizations help the Afghan Women's Network. There was dead silence. After a pregnant pause, the moderator stated "The silence is the answer". It was chilling. Th Afghan panel members seemed scared at the thoughts of the future.I spoke with many Afghan women after the panel and could see the concern and fear in their eyes, wanting the future to be better but not trusting that it will be.

Despite this, there has been progress since the US entered Afghanistan in 2001 such as today 3 million girls go to school compared to none under the Taliban. Women make up 20% of college graduates and this is on the increase.Maternal and infant mortality has declined significantly. 10% of prosecutors and judges are female compared to none in 2001.

This is good news but it is clear from my time at the conference that the U.S. has a to have a specific plan in order fr womens rights before we completely pull out and it must be executed before we leave in order to keep progress. It also seemed that the whole panel was terrified at the tenuous situation and what could come next.

I don't know the answer or even a part of the answer in terms of what I can do and that terrifies and pains me greatly.

After the conference we walked 30 minutes to historic Navy Pier and flew kites for good luck to womens right.Actually, out of the 150 attendees at the conference, less than 100 went on to fly kites. This is in some ways telling. I hope I am being unnecessarily negative and that I am wrong about the caring through actions.

it is important to me that I have comments from you regarding this subject.

You can learn more by googling the Afghan womens shadow conference in Chicago.

I hope you will care enough to do that.

Thank you.

Ubuntu (I am who I am because of who we are together).

Wendy Stebbins

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