Former First Lady Laura Bush Continues to Fight for Afghan Women's Rights

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 31, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: She is still at it. Former first lady Laura Bush is no longer living in the White House but she is still working hard at all the projects she worked on when she lived there.

One project started in 2002 was President Bush and President Karzai's U.S.-Afghan Women's Council. Here is former first lady Laura Bush.


VAN SUSTEREN: The conference, or the panels today started with going back to a radio address you gave in November 2001?

LAURA BUSH, FORMER U.S. FIRST LADY: Right after the September 11th attacks.

VAN SUSTEREN: Right away, you are talking about freedoms and rights.

LAURA BUSH: That's what happened. After September 11th, when the spotlight of the world turned to Afghanistan because the Taliban was giving Al Qaeda safe haven, many of the training camps the terrorist training camps for Al Qaeda were in Afghanistan. I think when that happened, when everyone in the United States looked at Afghanistan, they were shocked by the way Afghan women were treated.

They were not allowed to leave their homes. Many were widows from the years of conflict that had preceded that terrorist attack here in the United States. They couldn't leave their homes without a male escort. Children weren't allowed to fly kites. Girls were forbidden from being educated, which was really shocking I think to Americans, especially the idea of a government that would forbid its citizens from being educated.

VAN SUSTEREN: Treated like dogs.

LAURA BUSH: That's right, really terrible. Many, many American women, after I gave that radio address, would come up to me, all over the country and say what can I do? I want to be able to help. So we -- President Bush and President Karzai established the U.S.-Afghan women's council. It is really just a consortium of philanthropies and government and individual citizens who wanted to help the women of Afghanistan and have done things like fund the people who risked their lives during the years of the Taliban by running those secret schools in the basements and everything in Afghanistan so the girls could be educated to empowering women entrepreneurs with microenterprise or business training.

And today, because that's what we were really paying attention to, we know that economies can't succeed unless all the people can be involved. In countries where half the population, where the women are left out of the economy and can't work we see countries that are failing and economies that are failing.

VAN SUSTEREN: In 2006, when you went for the first time, after having significant impact on all our lives. Did it match what you thought? When you laid your eyes on the country and saw what the people were doing, I realize this is post-Taliban, but were you stunned?

LAURA BUSH: Not really, because I studied Afghanistan so much. But yes, the height of the mountains, the lack of infrastructure that had come from years of war with the soviet invasion and then after that the Taliban, very, very run down mud huts, the parts of Kabul, the biggest city didn't have electricity. All of that was not a surprise to me. But it is somewhat stunning to see in person.

VAN SUSTEREN: President Karzai joined the video conference today from Kabul. That was an interesting aspect of the conference.

LAURA BUSH: That's right. We also had joining by video conference from the embassy our current ambassador to Afghanistan's wife who was there with a group of Afghan women. Ambassador Eikenberry's wife has a post in Afghanistan. I think it is still one of the posts where state department members who are serving there don't take their families unless they are employed as part of the mission there. She is. We heard from students and the president of American university in Kabul.

When I went on that first trip to Afghanistan I announced the American University of Kabul, and it has green quickly. We saw all women students there. One did want to know, one of the things she with was worried about in her question was, what do these reconciliation talks mean? How can we be assured in these reconciliation talks that women's rights will be protected?

VAN SUSTEREN: President Bush 43.

LAURA BUSH: Of course he was there, but not by video --

VAN SUSTEREN: He was there in person.

LAURA BUSH: Exactly.

VAN SUSTEREN: Things are good?

LAURA BUSH: Things are good. This is what we are working on through the Bush Institute. We continue to work on all the policy issues that were post important to us when we were in the White House. Certainly the success of the Afghan democracy and the Iraqi democracy are both very, very important to us. So we'll continue to do what we can to support those countries as they build their democracy.