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Former first lady Laura Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have different political allegiances. But there is at least one thing they agree on: The women and girls in Afghanistan have made great progress since 2001, and that progress must be preserved and pushed forward.

Afghan women at the Blue Mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan

Afghan women at the Blue Mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan

Both Bush and Clinton are active in promoting freedom and equality for Afghan women, believing they are essential to the economic and political stability of their country. They joined Secretary of State John Kerry in touting the courage and entrepreneurial spirit of women in Afghanistan at a Georgetown University symposium on Nov. 15.

Afghan women’s rights were virtually nonexistent before the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Since then, girls and women have made great strides with expanded educational, political and business opportunities along with improved health care.

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Yet, much work remains to be done. With the country’s upcoming elections and the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2014, Afghanistan is at a critical turning point. “We need to continue to make the case to the leadership of Afghanistan that all of the sacrifice and the decades of war and conflict that have savaged their country could be for naught if we don’t have a unified consensus about what must happen as we go forward,” Clinton said. “Security is key. So are the elections.”

Bush encouraged the students at American University in Kabul to start a youth movement and develop a public relations strategy to get out the vote. Clinton also suggested using the Internet to enlist the support of other young people throughout the world to support their cause.

“I’m so worried that once our troops leave no one will pay attention again to Afghanistan,” Bush said. “We need to just stay with them — and we will.”

Photo credit: MivPiv

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