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Vermont Council on World Affairs celebrates International Women’s Day

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The Vermont Council on World Affairs held a day-long celebration of International Women’s Day Tuesday. The proceedings culminated with a roundtable featuring the former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.

The event looked at the “Evolving Role of Women on the Global Stage.” Early sessions included a Zoom link that allowed the president of the Afghanistan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry and entrepreneur Manizha Wafeq to talk about the status of Afghan women under the Taliban regime. She noted that before Afghanistan fell to the Taliban more than $90 million had been invested in women-owned businesses across the country.

“Some of the businesses have continued, have remained open. But in general because the situation politically and economically is not good of course we have seen a number of businesses closing down and we have seen a huge number of our people of course leaving the country. Which is another issue another reality of today that we have lost a great number of our, all kinds of professionals men and women. But specifically women. These women had become role models.”

The day concluded with a roundtable discussion on Women’s Role in Peace and Security. Vermont Council on World Affairs Chair and former Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle said his perspective of International Women’s Day changed after he and his wife lived and worked in Albania.

“In Albania, as in many countries, Women’s Day is a big deal. In Albania some call it Freedom Day. And today hundreds of women gathered around the streets of Albania to protest and to call for freedom of woman to live without fear and to be safe. Freedom of women to have decent wages and working conditions. Freedom of women to organize unions and freedom of women to live a life that is free of oppression and violence.”

Former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues and U.S. Representative at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women Kelley Currie joined the keynote roundtable discussion to close the day. She said while women have made economic gains, barriers to success continue in many countries.

“It shouldn’t be this way but there are still 75 countries in the world where women need a man to sign a bank account for them or where women can’t travel freely without a man’s permission or can’t work in the same jobs and fields as men. This is an area where there still need to be a lot of progress made. But we now have things like the World Bank doing surveys that show which countries are tackling these problems and putting tools out there and countries competing to improve their performance year over year on how they’re empowering women economically.”

This was the first of a four-part series planned through June by the Vermont Council on World Affairs that will also look into technology, inclusive climate change policy and the future of globalization.

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