On March 3-4, 2012, in partnership with the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization (AHRDO), a local Afghan NGO, the Embassy of Canada co-hosted a powerful exhibit – entitled “Memory Boxes” – displaying 20 vivid boxes decorated and lined with sentimental artefacts selected by Afghan widows. The items selected by these ordinary women were connected to the loved-ones they had lost during Afghanistan’s three decades-long conflict. The Embassy also invited the authors of the boxes, who had faced incredible trauma and personal loss, to discuss their experiences with Embassy guests.
The "Memory Boxes" exhibit served as a launch to a series of outreach activities organized by the Embassy to mark International Women's Day in Afghanistan.
Ms. Shelley Whiting, Canada’s Chargé d’affaires in Afghanistan, also hosted a well-attended reception on the evening of March 4th. Guests and visitors to the exhibit said they were impressed and touched by the powerful messages conveyed by the installations on display and the widows who bravely shared their stories.
“This exhibit should also make abundantly clear that all Afghans from all walks of life, all parts of the country, all ethnicities and all religious backgrounds have suffered enormously – together,” stated Chargé Whiting during the reception.
More than eighty guests, including Ambassador Simon Gass, NATO's Senior Civilian Representative, Michael Keating, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson, Maj. Gen. David Hook, Director of ISAF’s Force Reintegration Cell, Nader Nadery, former Commissioner of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and Farhadullah Farhad, Deputy of the Joint Secretariat of the High Peace Council, attended the reception hosted at the Embassy.
“As we mark International Womens’ Day, I want to reaffirm that Canada is committed to improving the lives of Afghan women and girls, with a particular focus on their health, education and human rights,” said Ms. Whiting. “As part of Canada’s new engagement strategy in Afghanistan, we are committed to advancing gender equality, a core Canadian value, through development programming and diplomatic engagement.”
In his remarks, Mr. Hadi Marifat, Founder and co-director of AHDRO thanked the Embassy for hosting this exhibit, and underlined the importance of bottom-up dialogue and grassroots efforts to engage Afghanistan’s excluded and disempowered.
The Embassy will continue to work with AHDRO to showcase the exhibit more widely, and to post some material - including photos and a description of the exhibit - on their website.
For more information on AHDRO’s work in Afghanistan, please visit: http://ahrdo.org/.