Australia will take a lead in reducing domestic and community violence against women in Afghanistan, with $17.7 million to change community attitudes and reduce the incidence of retribution attacks for female participation in society.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr said despite recent gains, Afghanistan remained a challenging environment for women and girls seeking to attend schools or take part in civic or political life.
"The challenges facing Afghan women under the Taliban cannot be understated," Senator Carr said.
"This was one of the worst countries in the world to be born female.
"Under the Taliban there were no female students in schools, and barely one in ten women could read.
"Participation in civic life was banned, and medical services like antenatal care were effectively absent.
"We've made strong gains – for example, with nearly three million girls in primary education and 29 female-only schools in Uruzgan Province - constructed with Australian aid.
"But there's more to be done, especially in reducing domestic violence. We'll be building on existing gains, with programs potentially supporting women's shelters, legal aid and employment opportunities.
"We've made progress on women's health and education – these additional funds would improve female safety and access to a fair interpretation of the law."
Senator Carr said Australia's assistance to date has delivered:
- support for more than 30 female health professionals and more than 80 community health workers;
- antenatal visits for 80 percent of pregnant women in Uruzgan;
- training on legal rights for 13,000 home bound women in two rural provinces: and
- 40 scholarships and training for female teachers to study overseas and return to teach in Afghan schools.
Female life expectancy in Afghanistan is 44 years, with more than 4,000 deaths a year from pregnancy-related causes. Despite recent gains, adult women literacy rates are among the world's worst at barely 12 percent.
Australia is a major contributor to Afghan aid, with more than $250m committed per year from 2015-16 as part of a global commitment of $16 billion over the next four years.
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