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Shaheen, Collins & Ernst Lead Bipartisan CODEL to UN Headquarters to Discuss Support for Afghan Women and Girls

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(New York City, NY) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) today visited the United Nations headquarters in New York to discuss how the U.S. and international community can best support women and girls in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. They participated in a series of meetings to discuss how to protect the rights and freedoms of Afghan women, particularly amid the unfolding humanitarian crisis, as well as hold hardline members of the Taliban to account for their oppressive policies.

During their visit, Senators Shaheen, Collins and Ernst met with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield; U.S. Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls and Human Rights, Rina Amiri; Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo; Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres; Food and Agriculture Organization Deputy Director-General, Beth Bechdol; and others.

“Today’s meetings reiterated the bipartisan resolve in Congress to support Afghan women and girls, whose basic rights and freedoms are in serious jeopardy under Taliban rule. Just last week, we saw the Taliban renege on its promise to reopen access to secondary education for Afghan girls. It’s clear that time is of the essence as the Taliban intensifies its assault on basic rights, education, freedom of movement and economic opportunity for women – all amid a dire humanitarian crisis that impacts women and children the hardest,” said Senator Shaheen. “I appreciated hearing the UN’s assessment of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and how Congress can support the UN’s mission to protect vulnerable groups. I appreciate Senators Collins and Ernst for their steadfast partnership to ensure decades of progress for women and girls in Afghanistan is not erased under Taliban rule. The U.S. must uphold its commitment to stand by Afghan women and hold the Taliban to account for its litany of injustices.”

“The disastrous withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan reversed the tremendous progress that had been made for Afghan women and girls.  The Taliban’s recent decision barring Afghan girls from receiving a secondary education is the latest in a series of outrageous assaults on women’s rights and freedoms,” said Senator Collins.  “Alongside Senators Shaheen and Ernst, I have long advocated for our government to improve access to educational and professional opportunities for Afghan women and girls. Today’s meetings at the United Nations provided invaluable insight into the steps the international community is taking to complement the United States’ efforts to support human rights in Afghanistan, as well address the ongoing and severe humanitarian crisis.  We will continue our work in the Senate to secure resources to assist the Afghan people, particularly vulnerable women and girls.”

“Since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, we’ve seen what we all feared become reality—the Taliban reneging on its promises to uphold the rights of Afghan women and girls. Just last week, the Taliban government made the disastrous decision to block Afghan girls to return to secondary schools, and the dire humanitarian situation in the country has made life increasingly difficult for too many. Senators Shaheen and Collins have been important partners, along with our fellow female senators, in urging the administration to act to support the basic rights of Afghan women and girls, and today’s visit to the United Nations conveyed the importance of the United States’ and the international communities’ commitment to protecting our Afghan allies and holding the Taliban accountable,” said Senator Ernst.

Shaheen has long championed the rights of Afghan women and girls and has led Senate efforts to bolster Congressional support for human rights around the world. Shaheen repeatedly fought to make the inclusion of Afghan women in negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government a U.S. foreign policy priority. Shaheen is the author of the Women, Peace and Security Act, which was signed into law in 2017 and ensures women’s leadership roles in conflict resolution and peace negotiations. She has also led bipartisan efforts to address the unique barriers young girls in developing countries face in accessing a full education. Last week, Shaheen led a group of Senators, including Collins and Ernst, in condemning the Taliban’s recent decision to renege on its promise to open schools to Afghan girls above the sixth grade, and yesterday led a bipartisan letter to President Biden urging his administration to take action.

In November 2021, Senator Collins joined all 24 women Senators in a bipartisan letter led by Senator Ernst urging President Biden to protect the rights of Afghan women and girls following the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.  In September 2021, Senators Collins and Klobuchar urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to prioritize resources to meet the needs of women refugees who have been evacuated from Afghanistan.  In June 2021, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution led by Senators Collins and Shaheen condemning an attack on a girls’ school in Kabul that killed over 85 people and injured 150 more. In June 2021, Senator Collins joined Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Shaheen in calling on President Biden to take immediate action to ensure women’s rights and safety in Afghanistan.

Since the fall of Afghanistan, Senator Ernst has been a vocal champion for protecting the rights of Afghan women and girls. Ernst led every single female senator—all 24—in a bipartisan letter to President Biden calling on him to do so. Last week, following the Taliban’s decision to renege on its promise to open schools to Afghan girls above the sixth grade, Ernst joined Shaheen and Collins, along with Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) in condemning the Taliban’s “assault on women’s education, rights and freedoms in Afghanistan.” Yesterday, Ernst joined a bipartisan group of female senators in urging President Biden to take action.