The beginning of the Campaign: 1997 – 2001

In 1997, the Feminist Majority Foundation launched a Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid, successfully bringing the Taliban regime’s atrocities against women and girls to world attention. The Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) has been working to support equality and justice for Afghan women and girls and continues to stand by Afghan women and girls today. 

The campaign, led by Eleanor Smeal and Mavis Leno, became the first of its kind to build a U.S.-based grassroots constituency around a foreign policy issue of women’s rights. It successfully brought the Taliban regime’s atrocities against women and girls in Afghanistan to the attention of the U.S. and the world. 

Under the “Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan,” we urged the U.S. government and the U.N. to do everything in their power to restore the human rights of Afghan women and girls. The Campaign successfully raised public awareness about the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan, preventing U.S. and U.N. recognition of the Taliban. We brought together more than 110 leading human rights and women’s organizations to condemn the Taliban’s human rights abuses against women and girls and to put pressure on the U.S. and the U.N. to end gender apartheid in Afghanistan. 

At a 1998 White House event celebrating International Women’s Day, President Clinton and Secretary-General Annan announced that the United States and the UN would not recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate government. 

The work increased humanitarian aid to the region. It also pressured UNOCAL, a California oil company, to abandon its plans for an Afghan oil and gas pipeline which would have produced over $100 million annually in royalties for the Taliban.

With the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, FMF renamed its campaign to the Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls and began working to convey to the world that Afghan women are a critical part of the solution for the future of Afghanistan in the face of a repressive regime.

Campaign Historical Background: Stop Gender Apartheid