1st Session, 43rd Parliament
Volume 151, Issue 7

Thursday, February 6, 2020
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker

Black History Month

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, as a child of Africa it gives me great pleasure to celebrate Black History Month and recognize how African culture has profoundly shaped North American culture — in music and art, literature and sports, business and politics.

Today, I would like to celebrate two inspiring Black women who left a mark on me and many others and contributed to making the world a more beautiful and peaceful place to live.

The late Kenyan Professor Wangari Maathai in 2004 became the first African woman to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. Her organization, The Green Belt Movement, assisted women in planting more than 51 million trees on community lands in Kenya.

Wangari Maathai’s main focus was poverty reduction and environmental conservation, and to that end she campaigned against land grabbing and the reallocation of forest land in Kenya. Many times I observed her planting trees on the land grabbed by the government. She was arrested and imprisoned many times, but she would not stop planting trees.

I believe that if the world had more women and men like Wangari Maathai we would not have the climate crisis that we face today.

I would also like to recognize Leymah Gbowee. She is the second African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As a young woman, Leymah witnessed her country, Liberia, falling into civil war. She saw what destruction war brings on people physically and emotionally, so she trained as a trauma counsellor to treat former child soldiers.

As the Second Liberian Civil War started in 1999, Leymah, an inspirational leader, brought together thousands of women from different religions to stage pray-ins and protests demanding reconciliation. Her women’s peace movement brought an end to the war in Liberia in 2003.

To this day, Leymah continues her efforts to build women’s agency in fighting for sustainable peace, and brings attention to the particular vulnerability of women and children in war-torn communities. She is often seen in our parliamentary corridors advocating for all women.

Today, as we witness the continuing discrimination and injustice around the world, I would like to quote Wangari Maathai from her book Unbowed:

No matter how dark the cloud, there is always a thin, silver lining, and that is what we must look for. The silver lining will come, if not to us then to next generation or the generation after that. And maybe with that generation the lining will no longer be thin.