Afghanistan: Support for ministry of women's affairs

Rights and Democracy
Rights and Democracy sends emergency aid for Afghan women.
Rights and Democracy is providing emergency funds to help establish the Afghan Department of Women's Affairs in Kabul. Despite promises of foreign aid to rebuild Afghanistan, the Women's Affairs Ministry has yet to receive any funds. The minister and vice-premier of the interim government Dr. Sima Samar is working out of her rented home in Kabul, without staff or resources.
"The amount we are providing - $50,000 CAN - is clearly a stopgap measure designed to help out the Ministry which faces incredibly difficult challenges, but donor countries must do their share to help out quickly,"  said the Chairperson of Board of Directors of Rights & Democracy, Kathleen Mahoney, a law professor at the University of Calgary.

"Dr. Samar has less than five months left to lay the groundwork of her department since the interim government's mandate is only six months. We could not abandon the women of Afghanistan while the funds promised by international donors slowly make their way through the bureaucracy," she said.

Dr. Samar, a medical doctor, oversaw a women's health and education organization in Quetta, Pakistan where she lived in exile since 1994, before her surprise appointment late last year. She was awarded Rights & Democracy's annual human rights prize - the John Humphrey Freedom Award -  in December 2001 and faces an uphill battle defending and promoting women's rights in the post-Taliban regime.

In a letter written to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, the President of Rights & Democracy Warren Allmand urged Canada to provide immediate support for the office and operations of the Afghan Women's Affairs Ministry. It called on Canada to ensure that a significant portion of the funds promised by the international community through the Tokyo donor process be earmarked for Dr. Samar and that there be a process to monitor the allocation of these funds.

"Since fundamentalist elements in Afghan society would prefer her Ministry to fail, it's imperative that Canada provide the necessary support and resources for it to succeed...It is essential that women's rights be a centrepiece of every aspect of Afghanistan's reconstruction and emerging political process," he wrote.
Rights & Democracy (International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development) is a Canadian institution with an international mandate. It is an independent organization, which promotes, advocates and defends the democratic and human rights set out in the International Bill of Human Rights. In cooperation with civil society and governments in Canada and abroad, Rights & Democracy initiates and supports programmes to strengthen laws and democratic institutions, principally in developing countries.