Governor General visiting Afghanistan
Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean landed in Afghanistan on Thursday for her first visit to the war-ravaged country.
Jean, who is commander in chief of Canada's armed forces, started the visit by meeting Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the capital Kabul.
Shealso plans to speak to soldiers, RCMP teams, aid workers, diplomats and other Canadians working in Afghanistan.
For security reasons, the Governor General's trip was kept secret until her plane touched down in Kabul on Thursday.
She arrives in time to celebrate International Women's Day on March 8, and is expected to speak with leading Afghan women.
"The women of Afghanistan may face the most unbearable conditions, but they never stop fighting for survival," Jean said in a statement.
"Of course, we, the rest of the women around the world, took too long to hear the cries of our Afghani sisters, but I am here to tell them that they are no longer alone. And neither are the people of Afghanistan."
Along with daily discrimination, women and girls in Afghanistan commonly live with the risk of violence, rape, kidnappings and forced marriage, according to Amnesty International.
Inthe statement released on Thursday, Jean said Canada is proud to be among the 37 countries restoring stability in the region and wished the Afghan people "peace, prosperity and happiness" on a "difficult, sometimes painful, journey."
Jean had previously asked permission to visit the capital, but was denied twice due to security concerns, the Canadian Press reported last year.
That was despite similar visits by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay and Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor.
Jean's predecessor, Adrienne Clarkson, visited Canadian troops in Kabul on New Year's Day 2005.
With files from the Canadian Press