As some White House initiatives come to a close with the end of an administration, the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council is continuing its mission to support the development and growth of women and children in Afghanistan by moving to Georgetown’s campus.

“[The United States Department of State and first lady Laura Bush] felt that it was a very important activity, so they wanted to ensure the continuation of the group and their work,” said Phyllis Magrab, new vice-chair of the council and director of the Center for Child and Human Development.

The council, previously housed in the State Department, will be based in the university’s Center for Child and Human Development, a division of Georgetown’s Department of Pediatrics. University President John J. DeGioia will serve as co-chair of the council, along with Bush, according to a university press release. After the transition on Jan. 20, the center will explore how best to provide the infrastructure and support for the council, Magrab said.

“We are in the very beginning stages of what this will mean for us at Georgetown, but Dr. DeGioia has always been very committed to the reconstruction of Afghanistan,” Magrab said.

The president and first lady held a reception at the White House on Dec. 18 to honor the council and applaud the transition to Georgetown.

“We are honored to have this opportunity to continue and to deepen our engagement and support of the people of Afghanistan, especially in this urgent effort to empower women in the future,” DeGioia said, according to a transcript made by the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council of remarks made at the reception.

Founded in 2002, the council was a joint initiative by President Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. According to the council’s Web site, its mission is to promote partnerships between U.S. and Afghan institutions and mobilize private resources to ensure that Afghan women are able to receive the education and training to develop the skills that are needed to succeed, skills not provided for under Taliban rule. Current projects aim to increase literacy, promote political participation and guarantee better access to women’s health care and its quality.

According to the council’s Web site, one recent project was a $17.7 million initiative to establish The American University of Afghanistan, which opened in 2006. The coed school offers professional courses in the fields of business, management and information technology, and reaches out to support women, in particular. Last June, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that they would continue to support the university with an additional $40 million grant over the next five years to fund additional courses, scholarships and campus expansion.

The move to the Center for Child and Human Development will allow the council to continue to expand its work with Afghan children.

“My own interest is to support the growth and development of children through any sort of activities,” Magrab said. “[The addition of the council to the center] fits into our interest in supporting developing countries and extending our expertise internationally.”

While the transition will require some additional logistical coordination, Magrab said the primary challenge lies in alleviating the instability and unrest in Afghanistan.

“The biggest challenges come from Afghanistan itself – their enormous security issues and the depth of need,” Magrab said. “There is the great enthusiasm and will of the people that we hope we can support and connect to.”

In November, Magrab traveled with Paula Dobriansky, undersecretary of state for democracy and global affairs, on an official visit to Afghanistan to meet with government officials and discuss the transition of the council to Georgetown. She was able to visit many of the currently operating council programs.

“It was a chance to initiate the transition and become familiar with what is going on there on the ground,” Magrab said.

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