Albright honors Afghan women changing status quo

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright greets Afghanistan's First Lady Rula Ghani at the National Democratic Institute's 2015 Madeleine K. Albright Luncheon. Credit: Chan Chao

Each year, NDI awards its Madeleine K. Albright Grant to an organization outside of the United States that defies the odds to give women the tools to participate and lead as equal and active partners in their communities.

At the Madeleine K. Albright luncheon this week in Washington, D.C., the former Secretary of State and NDI’s chairman presented this year’s award to the Worker Women Social Organization (WWSO) of Kandahar, Afghanistan.

“WWSO is a remarkable group that works at the grassroots level in difficult, even life-threatening, circumstances,” Albright said, “to ensure women and youth receive critical social services and can participate meaningfully in their local communities.”

Her words were reinforced by Afghanistan’s First Lady Rula Ghani, who also spoke at the luncheon. She said, ”Afghan women are among the strongest women I have ever had the privilege to know. They live under very difficult circumstances.  Yet, with very limited means, these women are striving to make a better life for themselves and their families.”

Another trailblazer for women, Senator Barbara Mikulski, the “Dean of Women” in the U.S. Senate, shared her views on the importance of getting women involved in politics. “As Madeleine Albright and the leaders of NDI know so well, when we share our stories, whether in Congress or Kandahar, we inspire women everywhere to fight for opportunity,” she said.

Just 15 years ago, women in Afghanistan, and particularly in Kandahar, were banned from attending school and working outside the home. In other words, they were kept out of sight.

And while women are now emerging from the shadows, harsh conditions continue to prevail and young Afghan women have been particularly affected.

WWSO was established to change the status quo.

Founded in 2010, WWSO works at the grassroots-level to empower young Afghan women -- high school and college students and recent graduates -- to be leaders in their communities.

WWSO and groups like it demonstrate that the women of Afghanistan are not just working to transform the present, they are claiming their country’s future.

The Madeleine K. Albright Grant is made possible through the generosity of the Melvin and Bren Simon Foundation.

Support NDI’s work with women here.