Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 75

Tuesday, February 27, 2007
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

International Women’s Day

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, in celebration of March 8, I attended a conference on “Gender, Peacekeeping and Peace-building,” hosted by the United Nations Association of Canada. Participants ranged from journalists to independent human rights consultants and academics.

I was fortunate enough to attend, this March 8, an International Women’s Day conference where prominent issues regarding women in conflict zones came to the forefront of our agenda. There was a public forum of women peacekeepers in the evening.

Honourable senators, I spoke on the need for Security Council Resolution 1325 to be adopted in order to address the culture of war that women experience and to underline the importance of Canada’s participation in all aspects of UN operations so that we can include more women in decision-making.

The former Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, stated in his report on women, peace and security, that:

We can no longer afford to minimize or ignore the contributions of women and girls to all stages of conflict resolution. . . . Sustainable peace will not be achieved without the full and equal participation of women and men.

The panel discussion centred on Central Asia, particularly where the plight of Afghan women remains dismal. Honourable senators, let me remind you what Afghan women are facing: 85 per cent of Afghani women are illiterate; about 95 per cent are routinely subjected to violence in the home; and the average life expectancy for a woman in Afghanistan is around 42 years. Women doctors in Kabul maternity hospitals describe terrible, life-threatening wedding night injuries that husbands inflict on child brides. In the countryside, far from medical help, girls die. In 2003, scores of cases of self-immolation were reported in the city of Herat. The following year, as many were recorded in Kabul. In the countryside, the situation is even worse.

Honourable senators, there was real concern at the conference for the dire condition of women in Afghanistan and that only 3 per cent of aid is going specifically for women’s programs. The clear message from the conference was that we need to do more for Afghani women in order for us to become partners for change.

Further, the message I was asked to bring to this honourable chamber was that Canadians are expecting us senators to be more vigilant in protecting the rights of Afghani women and ensuring that more aid is given to them.