Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

3rd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 147, Issue 86

Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The Honourable Pierre Claude Nolin, Acting Speaker

Urgent Action Fund

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak about a special group of women. Only last week, I had the privilege of travelling to Pakistan to work with the Urgent Action Fund, a women’s rights movement whose mission is to support and defend women’s rights by striving to establish cultures of justice, equality and peace. This global women’s fund works diligently to provide rapid response grants that enable strategic intervention and, in addition, participates in collaborative advocacy and research.

Honourable senators, I became involved with this particular group over a year ago, when we met in Amaan, Jordan. After working closely with these women during this time, I knew that I wanted to be part of this movement, as it so uniquely personified strength and unity.

I was working recently with the Urgent Action Fund in Pakistan. As I am sure honourable senators are aware, this past summer, flooding in Pakistan devastated one fifth of the country, claiming the lives of over 1,600 people while seriously affecting 20 million. This flooding not only displaced entire villages but also destroyed more than 700 schools and 400 health care facilities. Although the entire country of Pakistan was ravaged by the flooding, after meeting with several victims and service providers, I learned that women in particular were adversely affected by this disaster.

Honourable senators, the unfortunate reality is that when aid is provided, women’s needs and the issues that women are uniquely confronted with are often not acknowledged. The truth is that women and children do not have the same access to humanitarian aid as men do.

This lack of access leaves women, who have often been robbed of their homes and all their possessions, forced to accept the fact that they are now particularly vulnerable to sexual assault and kidnapping. Although I am proud to report that many organizations like the Urgent Action Fund perform great work catering to the needs of women, it is time for our country to do the same.

Honourable senators, when Canada provides disaster relief, it is of utmost importance that we remain mindful of the unique needs of women. We also have the duty to ensure that mothers and daughters are not forced to bear additional burdens simply because of their gender. I urge Canada to build on the successes of organizations like the Urgent Action Fund and the women who work on their behalf such as Terry Greenblatt, Marcy Wells and Sanam Anderlini.