Increasing the Capacity of Women in Afghanistan

Mobina Jaffer
November 05, 2013

On October 22, PN member Mobina Jaffer was invited by the Group of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan to speak at their evening debate on the "Impact of 2014 Elections on Afghan Women and Peace".

The evening started with a screening of the documentary "25 Darsad" (25 Percent) by filmmaker and women's rights activist Diana Saqeb. The film shows the daily lives of six female members of the Afghan Parliament.

The screening was followed by a discussion with Ms Sabrina Saqeb MP from Afghanistan and PN member Senator Mobina Jaffer from Canada. On her homepage, Mobina Jaffer reflected on the evning debate and her work for and with Afghan women.

Sabrina Saqeb spoke at the University of Ottawa on October 22. Born in Afghanistan, Ms. Saqeb’s family fled to Iran as political refugees. She returned to Afghanistan as a young adult, eventually becoming the youngest elected Member of Parliament at the age of 25. I was also invited to speak at this event.

Ms. Saqeb talked about the fact that women need to be included in the development and peace process initiative in Afghanistan. Women are guaranteed equal rights in the Afghani constitution, and their presence has returned to the schools and workplace; however, the problem is the institutionalization of sexism. She argued that by strengthening women’s position in society and increasing the capacity of women at local and national levels, Afghanistan will be able to function properly as a legitimate and democratic society.

Ms. Saqeb is eloquent and passionate. She is also incredibly brave. In 2013 alone, two consecutive Ministry of Women’s Affairs chiefs were assassinated; a female parliamentarian was kidnapped by Taliban militants; and the vehicle envoy of a female Senator was ambushed, leading to the death of her 8 year old daughter. Ms. Saqeb went to work every day, travelling to the distant corners of her constituency to hear their concerns and speaking to men as their equal. In areas where men are considered to be more advanced than women, these actions put a bull’s eye over her head. This violence is unacceptable, and needs to change.

By working with female Afghani leaders like Ms. Saqeb, and by encouraging and supporting initiatives that support women’s rights, I believe we can build the capacity of the country to become a place where women are no longer targeted just because of their gender.


Originally published on Mobina Jaffer's Homepage.

Photo by 神韻晚會之超級粉絲.


PN member Senator Mobina Jaffer represents the province of British Columbia in the Senate of Canada, where she chairs the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. From 2002 to 2005, she chaired the Canadian Committee on Women, Peace, and Security. Most recently, Senator Jaffer chaired a Senate study on the sexual exploitation of children in Canada and the need for national action.

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