Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise before you today to shed light on the importance of empowering women in Afghanistan.
This past Friday, the Honourable Minister Lawrence Cannon stated that Canada would mark December 10 as International Human Rights Day. He stated:
Canada supports the Government of Afghanistan and Afghan civil society organizations in their efforts to promote and protect human rights, especially those of women and children. Canada consistently raises human rights issues such as freedom of expression and women's rights with the Government of Afghanistan.
I would like to commend Prime Minister Harper and Minister Cannon for showcasing Canada's commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights at home and abroad. However, I believe that it is important to recognize that the situation for women and children in Afghanistan is still particularly volatile.
As we reconfirm our commitment to championing human rights, I believe it is important that we reflect upon the great work that is being done and that needs to be done in Afghanistan. Although many development organizations have been working tirelessly on promoting and protecting the rights of women and children in Afghanistan, there is one organization that is particularly close to my heart.
The Aga Khan Development Network is one of the world's largest private development networks, and with the support of its donors and partners it has channelled over US$700 million toward Afghanistan's reconstruction.
The Aga Khan Development Network has established several programs in Afghanistan focusing on health, infrastructure rehabilitation, education, micro-finance and large-scale rural development. Not only do these initiatives help create a more stable and secure environment for the Afghan people, they also provide a beacon of hope for young Afghan girls who would otherwise be destined to a life of domestic labour.
Honourable senators, 23 years of war has destroyed Afghanistan's infrastructure and has further increased the illiteracy rate. I strongly believe that by educating women we are empowering them in an important way, for we are providing them with the ability to fight for their rights. As various Aga Khan Development Network projects have demonstrated, investing in the health and education of women and girls will help usher peace into countries that have been plagued by war.
The head of this organization, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, who recently celebrated his seventy-fourth birthday, stated in an interview earlier this week:
I have always taken the attitude that it is better that the work should speak rather than the individual.
Your Highness, your work speaks volumes.
I urge honourable senators to join me in commending our Prime Minister, Minister Cannon, and His Highness the Aga Khan for their ongoing commitment to empowering women and girls, not only in Afghanistan but around the world.