Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,

Volume 148, Issue 129

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Motion to Express Support for Malala Yusufzai and her Family—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Ataullahjan, seconded by the Honourable Senator Martin:

That the Senate of Canada express its support for Malala Yusufzai in light of her remarkable courage, tenacity and determined support for the right of girls everywhere to an education; offer its best wishes for her full recovery; express its gratitude for the courage of her family and the work of the staff at the Birmingham hospital in the United Kingdom; and offer its solidarity with girls and young women everywhere whose absolute right to equality of opportunity and quality education in every country of the world is and must always be universal and real.

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: I rise today to speak on Senator Ataullahjan’s motion that the Senate of Canada express its support for Malala Yusufzai in light of her remarkable courage, tenacity and determined support for the right of girls everywhere to education; offer its best wishes for a full recovery; express its gratitude for the courage of her family and the work of the staff at Birmingham Hospital in the U.K.; and offer its solidarity with girls and young women everywhere, whose absolute right to equality of opportunity and quality of education in every country in the world is, and must always be, universal and real.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Senator Ataullahjan for her leadership on the issue of girls’ rights. I know that Senator Ataullahjan had the opportunity to visit Malala’s parents in London to convey our thoughts, prayers and support for her. I also want to thank Senator Segal for encouraging me to speak on this motion.

This motion is about Malala and her incredible courage and unwavering vision for universal and equal access to education for girls.

The most powerful change is sparked by a vision, but for that vision to be realized, it needs to be fuelled by investments of human and financial resources.

Honourable senators, we are all grateful to the people who educated, enabled and empowered us so that we could become senators. Senator Seth, Senator Ataullahjan and I appreciate that we were given the finest education because of the vision of our fathers and the resources invested on our behalf.

All three of us often speak about how fortunate we are that our fathers had the vision to provide to us the best education available.

All three of us will be forever grateful to our mothers and fathers. The investments that they made in our futures indeed helped us to become senators.

Honourable senators, there are 170 million children across the world who do not attend school. Of those children, 70 per cent are girls. It is estimated that, of those girls who are enrolled in school, 100 million will drop out before they complete their primary education.

Research has indicated that when women are educated and receive an income, they reinvest 70 per cent of that income into their families. In comparison, males reinvest between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of their income into their families.

Honourable senators, today I want to share the story of Malala Yusufzai. Malala, at the age of 11, began blogging for the BBC under an assumed name. She spoke about her life under the Taliban regime where she would secretly go to school with her books hidden under her clothes. She wrote, in a February 8, 2009, diary entry published by BBC Urdu:

I felt hurt on opening my wardrobe and seeing my uniform, school bag and geometry box. Boys’ schools are opening tomorrow. But the Taliban have banned girls’ education.

Sadly, in October of this year, Malala was attacked by the Taliban in Pakistan. Malala’s act of defiance was to share her thirst for knowledge and to pursue her greatest desire to attend school and to learn. It is her unshakeable determination, that profound vision, that we need to lift up and support. Malala has been a catalyst inspiring us to recommit to a vision of universal and equal access to education.

In Article 28 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, member states recognize the right of the child to education, commit to preserving the child’s human dignity and resolve to promote international cooperation to eliminate illiteracy throughout the world.

We also know that improving girls’ access to education promotes health and prosperity for young girls and for their communities. Through education, girls are empowered to improve their lives and the lives of others around them.

Education is a human right. It is not negotiable for any child anywhere. Yet, 101 million children are not attending primary school. More than half are girls. Youth literacy among young men is 1.2 times higher than among women in the least developed countries.

(1650)

To quote from a recent report of Plan Canada and the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law:

. . . 66 million girls are missing an education at a time when it not only has the power to transform their own lives, but also the world around them.

That same report, entitled A Girl’s Right to Learn Without Fear, highlights unacceptable rates of gender-based violence experienced by schoolchildren; 150 million girls and 73 million boys have experienced sexual violence; nearly half of all the sexual assaults are committed against girls younger than 16 years of age.

Bullying is also pervasive. Between one fifth and two thirds of children, depending on the country, reported being victims of verbal or physical bullying.

Finally, in direct contravention of Article 28 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, more than 80 per cent of students in some countries suffer physical abuse under the guise of discipline in schools.

Honourable senators, as a young child I remember my parents discussing the words of the former Aga Khan, Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah, who said:

When you educate a boy, you educate him alone, and when you educate a girl, you educate the whole family.

If you have two children, a boy and a girl, and you only have money to educate one child, then you should educate the girl as her education will benefit the whole family and indirectly the whole community.

My parents and many other people took these words to heart and worked earnestly for the education of girls.

Honourable senators, I believe in ensuring the right to education is a laudable vision, but that vision alone is not enough. We need to realize this vision through investments of both human and financial resources.

The former Aga Khan, His Highness Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah, and the present Aga Khan have sought to improve both access and quality of girls’ education for well over a century. In Pakistan alone, the commitment to girls’ education has seen, among other things, Diamond Jubilee Schools established for girls across Pakistan’s northern areas in Chitral to commemorate, in 1946, Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah’s 60 years as the spiritual leader of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.

Even as recently as this week, in Paris, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan congratulated Pakistani President Zardari on his government’s collaboration with UNESCO to host an event for the promotion of education in Pakistan. President Zardari took the opportunity to recognize and show his appreciation for the services of His Highness the Aga Khan across the world, giving particular mention to promoting education, poverty eradication, the empowerment of women and socio-economic development in Pakistan.

Access to education for girls cannot be sustained without ensuring the quality of instruction. The Aga Khan Development Network has invested significantly in field-based teacher development programs that prepare teachers without formal education for government teacher training certification.

In the 1980s, the foundation also opened two rural model secondary schools for girls in Pakistan: The Aga Khan School in Sherqilla and the Aga Khan School in Karimabad. These schools were built to ensure equal access to education for girls in that region. The Aga Khan Development Network has embraced a similar commitment to girls’ education in East Africa.

In addition, the Aga Khan University has established the Institute for Educational Development in Karachi, Pakistan, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to train teachers and policy makers to promote the quality of girls’ education and to ensure that the best female teachers are provided with opportunities for professional advancement.

The professional advancement of women has also led the Aga Khan University in both South and Central Asia and East Africa to establish schools of nursing and midwifery, and to ensure that professions largely staffed by women are given the stature and professional resources commensurate with their importance to national development.

Honourable senators, I was born in East Africa at a time when there were not many schools. His Highness the Aga Khan built schools all over East Africa, including in Kampala, Uganda, where I was born. I attended the Aga Khan Kindergarten School, the Aga Khan Primary School, and the Aga Khan Secondary School. My secondary school was a model school and the Aga Khan himself hired teachers from England in order to provide us with the best education.

I received the best education available because, not only did the Aga Khan believe that girls should be educated, but he realized his vision with substantial investments of resources. The Aga Khan recognized that a commitment to girls’ education requires careful and sustained investment in the institutional capacity of government and civil society institutions, which can in turn provide quality opportunities for girls, with a special emphasis on training and supporting of teachers.

Honourable senators, I believe that if Malala had the opportunity to address us today in Canada, she would first thank us for supporting her through her ordeal and then she would ask of us: What truly is your commitment to girls’ education? She would understand that we have a very strong vision and belief in girls’ education. She would ask us whether we have a sustaining commitment to support this vision with human and financial resources.

Honourable senators, I ask you to join me in supporting this motion of Senator Ataullahjan. I urge all of us to take from the incredible story of Malala Yousufzai, not contempt for her aggressors, but inspiration for her cause. Let her courage be the spark that ignites our action. Let us come together to support this vision and see that it is met with the human and financial commitment it needs to make education available to girls.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

(On motion of Senator Cools, debate adjourned.)

 

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