Former Miss World Canada uses celebrity, clout to further human rights message
© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Nazanin Afshin-Jam was in P.E.I. Wednesday, July 25.
Nazanin Afshin-Jam knows how to get heard.
In university, she was a global youth educator with the Red Cross. She was reaching groups of students, but she wanted to reach more.
She recognized that holding a title helps garner media attention.
“So that’s why I entered (and won) Miss World Canada to try to gain a larger platform or have a stronger voice to speak on these issues,’’ she said.
“And I knew that media were interested in hearing about what somebody with a title would say on certain of these issues.’’
The dedicated human rights activist has both celebrity and clout.
Her credentials come in the form of a political science degree and a masters’ in diplomacy, not to mention her successful campaign to save the life of a teenager on death row in Iran that is recounted in her new book The Tale of Two Nazanins.
Her celebrity as a former international beauty queen has expanded to include being the newlywed of Peter MacKay, Canada’s defence minister.
Afshin-Jam, the co-founder and president of the Stop Child Executions organization, is mixed on the attention resulting from the latter.
“Now I have noticed in the media lately some of the headlines mention ‘Defence Minister’s wife says such and such,’’’ she said.
“I don’t think it’s very relevant in what I’m saying in that moment because it has nothing to do with him or the work. So in that capacity I think it’s superfluous.’’
Yet, on the other hand, the media attention to her causes is welcome.
Afshin-Jam was in P.E.I. Wednesday to speak at a dinner hosted by the District 17 Progressive Conservative Association, a gig unlikely secured by her former Miss World Canada crown or even her admirable international human rights activism.
“I welcome any platform,’’ she conceded.
“Anybody that is going to give a platform to me to speak on behalf of those most vulnerable in the world, particularly those that are suffering in Iran right now...if it means that my husband’s title can help garner some attention, well all the (more) power.’’
She doesn’t pay too much attention to Canada’s human rights record. She tends, rather, to focus on countries that have severe human rights abuses such as China and Iran.
“I’m not saying attention should not be placed in democratic countries like Canada,’’ she said.
“Definitely all countries have work to be done in terms of how they are approaching certain human rights issues.’’
For now, her focus is on promoting her first book and delivering a straightforward message.
“The heart of my talk is mostly just for regular individuals to know that the have the power to make a difference,’’ she said.