The International Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development awarded Dr. Sima Samar the John Humphrey Freedom Award yesterday in Montreal for her work on behalf of Afghan women and girls. Samar was also recently appointed to the position of deputy vice chair and head of the ministry of women’s affairs in the transitional Afghan government.
In her acceptance speech, Samar focused on the Afghan humanitarian crisis and the reconstruction process. So far, two women have been named in leadership posts in the new Afghan government. Samar commented that two women was only a beginning and then called for the support of the international community in making women’s rights and security central to Afghan reconstruction. “We have much work to do,” said Samar. “We will not be able to do it alone. We need the support of the international community, including Canada. We need multi-national troops in order to disarm the different factions, to maintain stability and security, and to allow the government system to be re-established. Whatever government structure is in place, women’s rights must be restored. We need the commitment of Canada and the international community to make gender issues central in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.”
Dr. Samar, originally from southern Afghanistan, is the Executive Director of Shuhada Organization, which runs 45 schools in central Afghanistan servicing 20,000 students as well as 11 clinics and 4 hospitals. Shuhada also reaches out the Afghan refugees in Pakistan with 4 schools, a hospital, a clinic, and a training facility for physician assistants, paramedics, and teachers. Despite Taliban opposition and violent intimidation, including the Taliban massacre and killing of some of her healthcare workers and the bombing of one of her hospitals in Afghanistan, Samar has provided much needed health and educational services to the Afghan people since 1989.