US Announces Tech, Academic Opportunities to Empower Afghan Women – Voice of America – VOA News

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has announced new partnership programs designed to empower Afghan women in the face of Taliban suppression of women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Speaking at a meeting of the U.S.-founded group called the Afghan Women Economic Resilience Summit (AWERS), Blinken said Microsoft and LinkedIn will provide virtual training and certifications for Afghan girls worldwide, helping them gain valuable skills and connect with potential employers.

Additionally, he said, U.S. academic institutions will offer scholarships to Afghan women and girls who have resettled in the U.S. over the last two years. The State Department did not give details on which schools are involved with the program.

Established in 2022, AWERS aims to empower Afghan women both inside and outside their homeland.

“We are investing in skills, training, jobs, and female entrepreneurs,” Blinken told the State Department gathering in Washington. “This mission is more important than ever.”

Erosion of women’s rights

The announcement comes as the United Nations has reported a systematic dismantling of Afghan women’s rights over the past two years.

Human rights groups accuse the Taliban of imposing “gender apartheid” by systematically erasing women from public life.

The Taliban reject such criticism, insisting their policies uphold Islamic and traditional Afghan values.

Blinken did not say if the U.S. will resume its flagship Fulbright program for Afghanistan, which remains paused since the Taliban seized power in 2021.

Restrictions ‘suffocating Afghanistan’s potential’

With the Taliban’s rampant persecution of women’s rights activists, it is unclear how the AWERS programs will reach women inside Afghanistan.

“The Taliban’s restrictions are suffocating Afghanistan’s potential,” Blinken said, adding that the absence of women in the workforce is slashing more than $1 billion from the nation’s economy.

Despite the Taliban’s desire for international recognition, Washington maintains that restoring women’s rights is a core requirement for normalizing relations.

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