Carole MacNeil: Okay, some people see this move [sentencing Afghan journalism student Sayed Pervez Kambaksh to death, purportedly for downloading an essay on women’s rights] as part of a pattern of clawing back democracy and clawing back human rights in Afghanistan, how do you see it?
Bev Oda: Well, no, I totally disagree. I think we’ve made great strides in providing greater rights to the ah, afghan people. We’ve enabled certainly in the area for women Afghanistan the women previously had no rights. They had no rights under the law. They had no right to human rights. They had no right to education. They had no right to employment. They had no right to mobility outside of their home unescorted. They had no rights to take part in a democratic process or to take part in their government.
Bev Oda: Today we see women and girls going to school. We see them out, being employed. We see them taking part in the economic world of Afghanistan. We see them actually voting in the election and 23 per cent of them are now members of their parliament.
Carole MacNeil: I was talking to Adina Neyazi who is the founder of the Afghan Women’s Organization. She used to be a lecturer in Kabul and she’s worked in some of the underground schools and what not during the time of the Taliban. And she says, you know, that in many cases what the government’s are doing is a showcase really. That, you know, every 30 minutes an Afghan women dies, 87 percent of Afghan women are illiterate. She said there are still forced marriages. She said sometimes these kids are going to school and they get acid thrown in their faces, that the schools are under attack constantly. So she says that the status of women in Afghanistan – and I talked to the brother of the gentlemen who’s been scheduled or sentenced to execution, and he said the status of women in Afghanistan is terrible—
Bev Oda: Well, we agree that there’s so much more to do. We’ve made great strides so far. We have a lot more to do, we’ve ah, that’s why we are enhancing our program. We’re gonna be looking at new programs to address violence against women. We’re continue support civil society group there that are working on behalf of the afghan women. But the fact is is that they have made great strides, they know that ah…I was there myself, I saw girls walking to school, I met women who have their own stalls in the bazaars who are now engaging and making a living for themselves. They’re taking literacy courses and the better educated they become….so we are making great strides but there is a lot more to do and that’s why this government believes we have to stay in Afghanistan to complete the work-job we started.
Carole MacNeil: How concerned are you that the rights of women in Afghanistan are not a priority of the Karzai government? That, as it makes deals with the warlords to share power, that the rights of women will be the first thing to go.
Bev Oda: Well, you know, I think the thing is, I disagree. The rights of the women are a part of the Karzai government’s strategy and plans that’s why they have a minister for women within their government. That’s why the local (inaudible) the, include women. The local councils. Many of the local council’s have women participating there. The Karzai government, as I indicated has many women who are not only ministers but are representative of the government. So, I disagree with you. I believe and I know that there are actually looking forward to celebrating the international women’s day along with the other countries around the world.
Carole MacNeil: Um, Ms. Oda, just one final question the, ah, this case with the journalist just downloading a document that suggests women be equal to men and then you know the most prominent female MP Malalai Joya being suspended for criticising her male collegues. I mean, what does that say to you?
Bev Oda: It suggests that there’s still more work to be done and that’s why we continue to work with the people in Afghanistan as well as the government in Afghanistan. We express our concerns when it’s justified. We do it vigorously. And at the same time we’re working with the women at the grassroots, in their communities and their villages, and I’m also working with the minister for women in Afghanistan so we’re working on all fronts.
Carole MacNeil: Um, what does vigorously mean, compared to non-vigorously?
Bev Oda: Well, it means that as you know Afghanistan is one of this government’s primary missions that we’re addressing and we understand that we have made a commitment and you have to be ah, focused on that commitment, you have to be committed to the commitment and that’s why we want to ensure that we have a full public debate about our Afghan mission because there is success being achieved and we know that we can move the betterment of the lives for Afghan people even further.
“Committed to the commitment”–buh?! Apparently the Minister of International Cooperation still “can’t say whether they’re right or they’re wrong”, nor much of anything that might deviate from the Stephen Harper Party’s vain ‘stay the course’ script. Would someone explain to me how she’s managed to score multiple cabinet appointments (rhetorical question, natch)?
Sweet Jesus, I hate Bev Oda (and her , too).