Breakfast Supports Education for Women and Girls in Afghanistan

February 24, 2009 - News Release

The University of Guelph is marking International Women's Day 2009 by hosting a fundraising breakfast March 5 at The Arboretum to help support the education of girls and women in Afghanistan.

The event will include a talk by Sally Armstrong, a Canadian journalist, documentary filmmaker and UNICEF representative who was among the first to bring to light the plight of Afghan women under the Taliban.

"Those of us privileged to live in Canada enjoy access to one of the best educational systems in the world," said history professor Jacqueline Murray, who is organizing the breakfast. "It's sometimes difficult to appreciate the challenges education can present in other countries. One of the most dangerous activities a girl or woman in Afghanistan participates in is the simple act of going to school."

In November, eight girls walking to school in Kandahar were attacked by men on motorcycles, who threw acid in their faces. The teenage girls were left injured and disfigured, but nearly all of them are continuing their studies.

"This is a testament to the importance of education and the lengths people will go to attend school," Murray said. "As members of a community as caring as Guelph, with access to outstanding educational institutions, we are in a position to help support the girls and women of Afghanistan."

Ninety per cent of women in Afghanistan are illiterate, and a whole generation of girls was not permitted to go to school under the Taliban regime, she said. Since the fall of the Taliban, schools for girls have opened, but they receive no funding from the Afghani government.

Proceeds from the breakfast will go to support the charitable organization Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, which began in 1996 as a small volunteer network committed to supporting the empowerment of Afghan women and girls. There are now 10 volunteer chapters across Canada.

Tickets for the breakfast are $100, and participants will receive a charitable tax receipt for the entire amount because Miller Thompson LLP is fully sponsoring the event. Special student tickets are available.

Murray's goal is to raise $10,000. "My hope is that people will take this opportunity to support some of the world's most disadvantaged people," she said, adding that anyone who can't attend is encouraged to buy and donate a ticket for someone else.

A full hot breakfast will be served at the event starting at 7 a.m., including eggs, bacon, baked goods, tea biscuits, preserves, fruit, juice, coffee and tea.

Armstrong will speak at 7:30 a.m. The author, teacher and human rights activist travels the world, befriends women and children in need, and works to change the deplorable conditions under which some of them live by making their situations public. She has covered stories about conflict all over the globe, including in Israel, Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda and Afghanistan. She is the author of Bitter Roots, Tender Shoots: The Uncertain Fate of Afghanistan's Women and Veiled Threat: The Hidden Power of the Women of Afghanistan.

Armstrong has earned numerous accolades for her journalism and for her human rights advocacy, including being named a member of the Order of Canada. She is currently editor-at-large for Chatelaine magazine and a contributing editor at Maclean’s. In 2002, she was named a special UNICEF representative in Afghanistan. U of G awarded her an honorary degree in 2008 as a renowned Canadian global citizen.

International Women's Day is a global celebration for the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. It's been celebrated since 1911. This year's official day of recognition is March 8, with events planned in 21 countries.

For tickets or more information about the U of G breakfast for women in Afghanistan, call 519-824-4120, Ext. 54344, or send an e-mail

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt at Ext. 53338, or Barry Gunn, Ext. 56982,

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