Washington, DC /eNewsChannels/ — Women’s empowerment is inextricably linked to security, economic opportunity, effective governance, and social development. It is up to the Afghan Government and people to work toward a vision we all share: of a country where citizens are free from violence and coercion; where girls can go to school; where parents can find jobs and quality health care is more easily accessible. These will be the greatest barometers of Afghanistan’s progress. Secretary Clinton unveiled the U.S. plan to support women’s initiatives, outlined in the Women’s Action Plan for Afghanistan, at the London Conference on Afghanistan on January 28.

The Plan includes initiatives focused on women’s security; women’s leadership in the public and private sectors; women’s access to judicial institutions, education, and health services; and women’s ability to take advantage of economic opportunities, especially in the agricultural sector. This is a comprehensive, forward-looking agenda that stands in stark contrast to the oppression and marginalization women face from Afghan insurgents.

Women are key to every element of this agenda – from strengthening the economic sector, to promoting good governance, to energizing civil society, to sustaining peace and security. Progress is not possible if half a country’s population is left behind. Afghan women must not be viewed simply as victims who need to be sheltered. They must be respected and valued as leaders — a reserve of talent that Afghan society needs to draw upon in order to prosper and succeed.

The Afghan government is taking important steps. It has committed to enacting legislation to eradicate violence against women and has recognized the importance of women in both the Afghan National Development Strategy and the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan. Much more remains to be done. The U.S. looks forward to supporting these and other initiatives that will help build the capacity of Afghan women to participate fully in Afghan society and shape their country’s future.

For the complete Women’s Action Plan for Afghanistan, please see the following link: .

Tabitha Angel Berg is an aspiring author and musician and joined eNewsChannels in Nov. 2006 as an editor and mistress of the WP-based content management system (CMS). She likes ferrets better than cats and tea better than coffee, and is a devout iPad evangelist. Nobody pays her to like Dr. Pepper, but wouldn't you like to be a pepper, too?