The Heroic Politician
At the age of 27, Naheed Farid was elected to the Afghanistan Parliament, becoming one of the youngest elected members in the nation's history. She campaigned for election in 2010 in the tribal village of her home province, Herat in western hemisphere of Afghanistan, under oppressive Taliban rule.
“Running for office in Afghanistan as a woman is seriously dangerous and difficult,” says Farid, who like many from her generation, were forced to drop out of school under the oppressive Taliban regime. “Traditionalists believe women should not raise their voices in public,” she explained. "A village elder told my family I should stop my campaign because it was bringing dishonor on the community."
Afghan women were denied rights to education, health and dignity but this did not stop Farid in her political activities. She won a seat for a five-year term, owing to young voters who supported her plans to promote gender equality and education.
Dangers for women in the country are sharply on the rise as the U.S. scales down security and prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan. Crimes such as rape, honour killings, and cutting off women's ears and noses were up 25 percent from 2012. Taliban threats against female public figures like Farid are not hollow. A female politician survived an attempted shooting, but her 8-year-old daughter was killed in the attack.
Farid has consistently spoken on the need for men to join in the struggle for women's rights. Her husband has been one of her strongest allies in her quest to secure rights for Afghanistan's women, helping with fundraising and campaign management. The impending transition from foreign to national rule will bring a new set of challenges to Farid's goal of empowering Afghanistan's women to foster change in their communities. Her presence on the world stage, as well as her pervasive influence in her country's political landscape serves as an inspiration for the countless young Afghan women who will now be called upon to play a role in their country's democratic transition.
“Women often have to overcome intimidation from disapproving men to get to the ballot box," she says. “We still have a big fight ahead of us to ensure women's rights and safety.”
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