Afghan Doctor Moussada Jalal, the first woman to run for President in Afghanistan and former Minister of Women’s Affairs, was in Ottawa to testify before the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Human Rights and Development and to meet with Parliamentarians, women’s rights groups and NGOs. Hosted by Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, an All-Party press conference was held this morning that included Liberal MP Mario Silva.
I spoke to Silva after Question Period about Dr. Jalal’s visit.
Q: I’d like to know more about this press conference you held this morning.
A: It was with Dr. Jalal, and she made a presentation at our subcommittee on Human Rights, and had a very compelling story about how some of the initial progress that has been made after the fall of the Taliban on women’s rights and minority rights are now slowly being eroded, specifically by the warlords, and the different Taliban officials having more and more power in the government, and also that a lot of these warlords or tribal leaders have their own television channels, which makes it very difficult to get positive voices about women and some of the things that they can do in society – they’re being silence. It was a very difficult message she had. It’s one of peace, but at the same time it was difficult to hear her because we’ve sacrificed so many lives in Afghanistan and we’ve committed our troops until 2011, and we would hope that there would be some progress being made, but it was very sad to hear, notwithstanding the mission and the resolve of the international communities, they’re putting the money and the resources where they should be, and if you want to deal with issues of education and poverty, you have to focus on women, and that’s one thing that needs to be done that hasn’t been done. That was her message – it was a very compelling message. She ran twice for president, and she also was a former minister of women’s affairs in Afghanistan as well, so she has a lot of credentials. She’s also a medical doctor – a very well respected woman.
Q: This was a multi-party event, as well?
A: That’s right.
Q: Based on what you’ve heard, does this help inform what you want to contribute to what we hope will be a debate on the future of the mission there?
A: I think we definitely need a debate on the future – I think you’re absolutely right. All of us are committed to the troops’ withdrawal in 2011, but what type of role are we going to play afterwards? I think Dr. Jalal would also agree that we need to continue our involvement, certainly through humanitarian work and CIDA, and different projects need to be ongoing. I think what she’s also making an appeal for is there needs to be more serious funding for women’s NGOs, and NGOs who are dealing with women’s issues. It seems to be critical and fundamental to the development of the country.