Monday, May 22, 2006

Laura Bush Delivers Graduation Speech, as Afghan Women Complete US Studies

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingWASHINGTON (AFP) - Three Afghan women this weekend became the first to graduate from a program to provide US educational opportunities that later will later help them rebuild a post-Taliban Afghanistan.

First Lady Laura Bush delivered the commencement speech at a Roger Williams University in Bristol Rhode Island, where the women -- Nadima Sahar, Arezo Kohistani and Mahbooba Babrakzai -- became the first graduates of the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women.

The scholarship program, started after the US invasion of Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, has some 20 Afghan women participants who are given a free college education in the United States.

Under the Taliban, girls and women were not allowed to attend school after age eight.

"American women know that Afghanistan's future success requires widespread education among Afghans," Laura Bush said in her keynote graduation speech hailing the program.

"By educating promising young Afghan women in American colleges, the initiative is making sure Afghanistan's future leaders will extend the freedom and opportunity in their new democracy to all Afghans, including women and girls," the first lady said.

"Educating women will also help make sure that all Afghans can actively participate in their country's democratic future."

All told, 20 Afghan women are currently participating in the initiative at 12 universities, with six of them -- including three who received their degrees Saturday from Roger Williams University -- due to graduate this year.

"Someday, the world will know these women as accomplished Afghan leaders," the first lady predicted.