Afghanistan's First Lady Rula Ghani has said that despite millions spent on projects to help improve the lives of women in the country, very little progress has been made on the ground and that efforts to bring positive changes to the lives of women have failed.
She strongly rejected 'symbolic programs' by various NGOs in the country over the past few years and said that in many cases, these NGOs and those responsible for implementing the projects and programs for the betterment of the women relied on neatly signed certificates.
Meanwhile, former U.S ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham has said that a new Afghanistan is on the rise, describing the millions of Afghans working on a daily basis as courageous and resolute and on their way to leading their country towards prosperity.
It is believed that millions of dollars has been spent over the years on projects aimed at improving the lives of women in Afghanistan – many of which were short term programs.
Speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington on Thursday, Rula Ghani said the $500 million USD 'promote' program which is run by the U.S must be implemented in a manner that can ensure positive changes in the lives of women in Afghanistan.
She warned against development projects that do little more than offer participants' certificates, instead of harnessing their newly learned skills; she described cell phones as a useful tool for promoting education as well as business; and said the gains made in women's rights can only be sustainable if Afghan women remain invested in their success.
"There has been a lot of projects, a lot of programs, a lot of NGOs, a lot of international aid agencies that have come and spent money in Afghanistan. But those people who have participated in those projects more often than not probably took part in workshops for two weeks and they ended up the workshops with a nicely signed document that they can frame and put on the wall and nothing else," she said.
She also called on Afghan migrants to return to their home country.
"In a country of 32 million inhabitants, 180,000 is a small number, now to the question whether these Afghans will be welcome when they come back to Afghanistan, of course Afghanistan is their country, they are more than welcome to come home," Ghani said.
Meanwhile, the former U.S envoy to Afghanistan, Cunningham, said that the U.S is optimistic that a bright future lies ahead for Afghanistan. He reiterated calls to the international community to continue supporting Afghanistan.
"Afghanistan is facing severe problems and challenges as we all know. But there is a new Afghanistan building and emerging. The future is in the hands of Afghans themselves and they are taking charge of their future."
"They need time and space and millions of courageous Afghans work every day to take advantage of that time and space, and I am convinced that there is an opportunity for this country if the international community maintains its commitment. And I am also convinced that there should be no further reductions in U.S and international forces and support for Afghanistan until conditions on the ground and Afghan capabilities make that possible," said Cunningham.