The U.S. has announced the award of more than eighteen-million dollars in new grants under the Middle East Partnership Initiative. This brings the amount of funds made available to about one-hundred-twenty-nine-million dollars. Adam Ereli, deputy spokesman for the U.S. State Department, says the grants are being awarded to local groups throughout the Middle East:
"This money will go to support projects in Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, the West Bank and Gaza that focus on our effort to help these people -- civic organizations, citizens groups, educational institutions in these countries -- reform and develop. Specific projects funded will include alternative dispute resolution, training, women's leadership and networking skills training, promoting primary and secondary education. We will also be funding seven university partnerships."
President George W. Bush proposed the Middle East Partnership Initiative to help promote political, economic, and educational reform in Arab countries:
"We're challenging the enemies of reform, confronting the allies of terror, and expecting a higher standard from our friends. For too long, American policy looked away while men and women were oppressed, their rights ignored, and their hopes stifled. That era is over."
Women in the Middle East are particularly disadvantaged and often lack the same rights as men in regard to family issues, property ownership, inheritance, and even travel. For this reason, many of the projects are aimed at improving opportunities for women. Workshops have been held in Algeria and Tunisia to teach women such political skills as campaign planning, message development, and dealing with the media. And in Morocco, a program has helped a theater company to stage plays pointing out the harm caused by abuses against women and children.
"These efforts stem from a simple principle," says U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. "America is taking the side of the millions of people in the Muslim world who long for freedom, who cherish learning and progress, and who seek economic opportunity for themselves and their children."