Tag Archives: afghanistan

Save the Afghan-Canadian Community Center

As recently noted in the Toronto Star, Government of Canada funding for the Afghan-Canadian Community Center (ACCC) is set to end on February 28th, 2011. Without renewed funding, the ACCC will need to take urgent steps to cut costs: we will need to lay off teachers and close classes, closing the door on higher education for many brave Afghan women.

A cut-back of the ACCC would be a huge loss to the women of Kandahar, the nation of Afghanistan and the Canadian taxpayer. Dollar for dollar, the Canadian International Development Agency’s (CIDA’s) investment in the ACCC has been one of the most effective development projects in Kandahar province. As a result of Government of Canada support, the ACCC has more than 2,000 students and graduates and more than 4,000 total beneficiaries.

With a further investment of $650,000 and a new facility, we can bring the ACCC to the point where it will not need further government support. This is a small price to pay to ensure a lasting legacy for sacrifices made by Canadians in Kandahar.

To help, please write your Member of Parliament (MP) and express your support for the Afghan-Canadian Community Center.

Click here to send a letter to your MP.

Save Women’s Shelters in Afghanistan

The government of Afghanistan has recently introduced a bill that wrests control of women’s shelters in Afghanistan from the local Afghan women’s NGOs that have founded and run them, and transfers that control to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA). This bill could become the law of the land ANY DAY NOW.

If this bill becomes law:Women and girls seeking shelter will be required to plead their case before an eight-member Government panel, including conservative members of the Supreme Court and Ministry of Justice. This panel will determine whether a woman needs to be in a shelter or should be sent to jail or returned to her home (and her abuser).

Women will have to undergo “forensic” exams (virginity tests) to determine whether they have had sex and therefore committed adultery. The tests are medically invalid.

Once admitted to a shelter, women will be forbidden to leave. Their shelter will become their prison.

There is no discussion in the bill of women’s human rights, of the horrific abuse that most women in shelters have suffered and fled.  The bill discusses shelter food but not how women’s rights will be protected and justice achieved.

And perhaps worst of all, if any family member comes to claim her, even her abuser, she will be handed over to that person, in most cases to be subjected to the harshest retribution for shaming the family.

Read more and sign the petition here.

Discussion with Sally Armstrong and CFUW Oakville

Sally Armstrong, Journalist and Human Rights Activist

On September 28, Sally Armstrong spoke to the CFUW Oakville Bloomsbury 1 Interest Group about her recent journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and her observations and hopes for the place of women and children in today’s world.  She believes that women’s issues are coming into a bright, new light, from the zones of conflicts to the United Nations to the corporate world; women are the way forward and change is on its way.

She began her talk by reflecting on her first experiences in Sarajevo during the conflict there in 1992.  At that time, the rape camps and the killing of children were not looked on as a casualty of war but as punishment for women, and the news of the atrocities were not covered by the media and therefore no one knew what was happening to the most vulnerable. Most of the world looked the other way, and at the end of the conflict, women were not invited to the peace table.  One of the negotiators stated that women would not be included because “We are discussing serious matters”.

Since the conflict in Afghanistan began in 1999, women have bravely continued to fight for their rights, and when President Karzai tried the pass the law regarding Sharia’h, Afghan women marched in Kabul and the law was withdrawn.  The situation now seems to be at “the tipping point” moving in favour of women and she is hopeful that the women will be brought to the peace table in efforts to end the conflict in their country.  Afghan women have learned that the way out for them to the freedom to which they are entitled is through empowerment, and the power brokers are beginning to realize that bringing women to the table is critical to the economic health of the country and all its citizens.

Sally travelled to Congo this past summer because she had learned of the horrific acts of depravity and barbarism there – the mass raping by seven rogue militia groups in North and South Kivu provinces that forces the women to take their children and hide in the forests, because the men have been driven away.  She met with some of these women in the forests to listen to their stories and bring back a message to our world.  Five million are dead in this conflict and most of the world again is looking the other way.  The women of Congo have formed a campaign called Silence is Violence because they know that what has happened to them and what is still happening must be acknowledged and stopped.

The International Women’s Commission (IWC) for a just and sustainable Palestinian-Israeli Peace has been established and is made up of 20 Palestinian women, 20 Israeli women, and 10 international women.  The IWC begins meeting in Jericho, Israel, in October 2010, and Sally Armstrong is the only Canadian appointed to the Commission. She is hopeful that this group of women will be able to come up with solutions for this long-standing problem that has not been solved by any previous meetings and representatives, no matter how well-intentioned.  The Honorary Chairs are Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia, and Ines Alberdi of UNIFEM is the Chair of the meetings.

In conclusion, she reminded us of the changes that Canadian women have made in the laws of Canada which have changed our own culture with regard to women, reminding us of the days not-so-long ago when we had to promise to “obey” when we married, when we needed our husband’s signature to have a hospital procedure, when we could not open our own bank accounts, and when the laws on sexual assault looked the other way.  She reminded us that it requires at least 30% of women in government to change a culture and noted that even here at home, we have not quite reached that percentage in Parliament.

It was most encouraging to listen to Sally Armstrong who has a great deal of experience in war torn areas of the world and the extreme difficulties faced by women and children. Despite what she has witnessed she finds hope in the resistance and spirit of women across the world and believes that change is on the way.

Note:  CFUW and its sister national affiliates in IFUW continue to work vigorously for the ratification of UN Resolutions 1326 and 1820.

For more information on the International Women’s Commission, “goggle” IWC – its website is being developed as the meetings begin.

Roberta A. Brooks
CFUW Oakville
IFUW Assistant Treasurer/
Convener, IFUW Finance Committee

October 14, 2010

Dr. Sima Samar at CFUW AGM 2010

On Wednesday July 14 Dr. Sima Samar, human rights activist and physician met with NGO representatives from Civil Society at a Round Table Hosted for CFUW by Amnesty International.  A number of human rights and women’s groups were there including representatives from the Canadian Muslim community.

CFUW-Ottawa sponsored Dr. Samar’s visit to Canada, as part of the program for the CFUW AGM and Conference in Ottawa from July 16 to 18. Dr. Samar spoke candidly about her experiences and about the need for civil society as well as government engagement.  She addressed issues relating to women’s rights and to the need for education in a country torn by thirty years of war since the time of the Soviet invasion, the rule of the Taliban and the War Lords.

Patricia DuVal, President of CFUW chaired the meeting and recognised all of the groups around the table.

On Tuesday, Dr. Samar was able to attend a meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade – meeting first with senior bureaucrats and then with a wider group from CIDA and the Department of Foreign Affairs.  She spoke about issues of corruption within government and the need to work towards a lasting peace.  The Afghan Embassy hosted a further meeting for Aid Groups on Thursday morning.

Dr. Samar received an Honourary doctorate from Carleton University at a special ceremony on Thursday July 15.  Upon receiving the degree she commented that she had never attended her own graduation ceremony, after receiving her medical degree from Kabul University – because of the political situation at the time.

Dr. Samar holds an honourary Order of Canada – the only non-Canadian to be so honoured.  She was nominated for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, and has again been nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr. Samar was the keynote speaker at CFUW’s Confederation Banquet – where once again she addressed the issues important to Aghanistan and the way to peace.  Only when women are educated and become part of the peace process, will a lasting peace be possible.