Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 146, Issue 17

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

International Women’s Day

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, I know all of us are thinking of the various injustices or discriminations that women face in our world today, both in our country and abroad. United Nations Security Counsel Resolution 1325 reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peacekeeping and humanitarian response, and stresses the importance of their equal participation in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. Resolution 1325 calls on all parties to conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, in particular, rape and other forms of sexual abuse, in situations of armed conflict. This resolution sets out how civilians, in particular women and children, account for the vast majority of those adversely affected by armed conflict.

Honourable senators, there are many conflicts one can speak about, but since the weekend when I heard that foreign peacekeepers, diplomats and aid workers were being forced to leave Sudan, and in particular Darfur, I have truly felt that you and I — especially I — have let down the women of Darfur.

Once when I was in Darfur, I was sitting with some women in a camp. Suddenly, I heard a loud noise. We all turned around and saw many young girls running toward us, all of them shouting at the same time.

Through a translator, I learned that one of their friends, an 11-year-old girl named Fatima, had been snatched and they could hear her screams. Fatima was a victim of rape by five militiamen.

With the help of aid workers and African Union soldiers, we tracked her down. Fatima was brutalized. Her eyes were swollen shut, her nose and mouth were bleeding profusely and her arms and legs had been broken. The rest, I am not able to share with you.

Fatima was helped by aid workers who were still at the camp, trying to help her parents and other families. Months later, when I returned to this camp with the help of aid workers, I again found Fatima. I observed this young girl starting to heal physically, slowly.

Honourable senators, as of this past weekend, 2,000 aid workers have left these camps. On this International Women’s Day, let us renew our resolve, recommit ourselves and refocus our energy and resources to help these aid workers return to their jobs.

The reality is that many Fatimas in the camp today need our help. We owe it to this little girl, Fatima, and all others. Our humanity links us to these girls and makes girls like Fatima our own.