16 years ago, Laura Bush became the first-ever First Lady to speak on the President’s weekly radio address alone. The horrific event that sparked her address – September 11th – was a spotlight on the living conditions of vulnerable Afghan women and children, a spotlight which helped improve those conditions for almost two decades to follow.
Laura Bush’s activism for the people of Afghanistan recalls the words of Antifragile author Nassim Taleb: “Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty.”
“After September 11th,” Bush said in a CNN interview with Brooke Baldwin, “when the spotlight turned on Afghanistan, American women were shocked, really, at the plight of the life of women there.”
Bush was at Baldwin’s interview with Afghanistan’s first lady, Rula Ghani – her friend since 2015. Baldwin writes that the pair, “… share a steely determination to make headway in the fight to improve the lives of Afghan women.”
“The situation of women was really dire in 2001, 2002,” says Ghani. “During those now almost 16 years, women have progressed tremendously in Afghanistan.”
When Baldwin asks her how, she replied, “They’re more visible . . . they are starting to speak up.”
Manizha Wafeq, one of the three women that joined Bush and Ghani for the interview, spoke of the way men’s support will be crucial.
“In the context of a society like Afghanistan,” she said, “it’s very important to have the support of a male [family] member. “We really need their support in order to move forward and progress, and I’m very happy that the attitudinal change is coming and we have witnessed it.”
Manizha Naderi, Executive Director of Women for Afghan Women, confirms the changes have certainly been positive. “Things are happening. Afghanistan was reborn in 2002. You can’t build a country in 15 or 16 years. You need a generation, if not more.”
In the shelters Naderi helps manage, 15 percent of girls are unable to return home because they may be killed by their families, for things such as marrying someone of whom their father doesn’t approve.
“Women don’t want to live by themselves,” Naderi says, “they don’t want to leave their families, but in certain cases, women can’t go back. If they go back they will be killed.”
Baldwin asked Bush where she though their resilience came from – a resilience Mrs. Bush had mentioned several times. She answered that the resilience of the Afghan women and Afghan people in general was one that is identical in all people.
“I think it’s just a basic strength that women and men have,” she said. “And fortunately, they’ve been able to use that, now that things have changed in Afghanistan.”
She even compared them to Texans, which is probably compliment enough.
Sign Up For Our Newsletter