Seoul gathering draws female delegations from 84 countries
SEOUL — It was a scene almost unthinkable as recent as a few years ago, and one still a bit odd considering world events.
But Friday in Seoul, as part of the 2004 Global Summit of Women, there they stood: delegations of women from the United States, Iraq and Afghanistan, countries linked by turmoil, conflict and U.S. troop deployments.
The 11th annual meeting brought together more than 800 women from 84 countries, and is designed to bring business leaders, social activists and government officials together in an idea-sharing environment. And while the Afghan and Iraqi delegations said their countries had made great strides in recent years, there was still much to be done.
For some, just getting to the summit was a challenge.
Maysoon al-Damluji, a member of the Iraqi delegation and the new Deputy Minister for Artistic Matters, said the night before they left, a bomb exploded outside the hotel where they were supposed to meet. Streets shut down, and it took them hours to reach the airport.
When they did, they were in for a 34-hour trip that took them to Jordan, Dubai, Thailand, Hong Kong, and finally, Seoul.
Other Iraqi delegates called the Global Summit “eye opening,” noting this was the first time the country has sent a full eight-woman delegation. Many said they looked forward to meeting with other women who have had similar challenges in recent years.
Members of the Afghan delegation said that while things have largely changed in the capital, Kabul, there is still much to be done elsewhere. Many women outside Kabul are still under Taliban-style restrictions, which exclude them from working or going to school. The security situation in Afghanistan still is extremely tenuous, the delegates said, with large sections of the country still controlled by regional warlords.
But Friday, the focus was on building relationships and learning from each others’ experiences.
“I applaud what you’re doing. The future looks good for both of your countries,” said Joan Hubbard, wife of U.S. ambassador to South Korea Thomas Hubbard, and one of the leading forces at the summit.
“You can leave here and know that you are not alone. You can know there are other people out there with your experiences, out there to help you.”