Canada’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, paid a visit the CFUW National Office on Tuesday to meet with representatives of the organization. The ongoing work of the Ottawa Club’s study group, University Women Helping Afghan Women (UWHAW), resonated with the Ambassador and prompted her to reach out to CFUW for a meeting.
Ambassador Lyons spoke passionately about her role as the first woman Ambassador in Afghanistan in 10 years. She commented that one of her major challenges as Ambassador has been trying to keep public attention on Afghanistan; something certainly that CFUW, with its network across Canada, can help support.
As she nears the end of her first year as Ambassador, she is enthusiastic about Canada’s new phase of involvement in Afghanistan; focused on development, human rights, security, and governance. There continues to be a lot of hard work ahead from her perspective, which must be carried out with as much vigour as Canada’s military involvement. This she believes is an important way to honour the military’s work, and to make Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan a constructive story; women’s rights being an essential part.
The task of supporting women’s rights in Afghanistan is enormous she says, but one that Canada and the international community remain committed to. Their progress is fragile, but also tangible, and symbolic of what can be accomplished collaboratively. She stressed that Afghanistan could become an important example of 21st Century Global cooperation if the international community and the Afghan government are able to achieve something workable for the Afghan people, particularly if women’s rights continue to improve, considering the past extremism they experienced.
So how can this be accomplished? There doesn’t seem to be an easy answer. The Canadian government recognizes that women have an essential role to play in attaining durable, long-lasting peace, as research from the Institute on Inclusive Security, and others have shown. Ongoing funding for women’s rights, health and governance will certainly be important components, along with support for economic development to ensure sustainability.
CFUW, with its member Clubs, can support women’s rights in Afghanistan by continuing to keep these issues and Afghan women’s concerns in the public eye.