Today I would like to introduce to you: Zarifa Ghafari, an Afghan advocate, activist, politician, and entrepreneur. She’s known for her efforts to empower women in Afghanistan, and is currently one of the few female Afghan mayors and the youngest to be appointed when she was only 26.
Zarifa is from the remote, ultra Conservative, Taliban supporting province Wardak. She was the only female applicant to be mayor out of over 130 hopefuls, and though she did not have any political experience, she was selected!
On her first day in office, local men from her town were so outraged by her role that they harassed her and attacked her office. She was forced to flee that day, and her ability to actually take on her position was delayed by almost a year, but she was determined to return and stand up for herself.
When she did take on her position, the men in the office staged a walkout, and even after that they continue to mock and ignore her. Gender roles are deeply engrained in this part of Afghanistan. But Zarifa is determined to make a difference and pave the way for other girls and women.
Zarifa says she anticipates her own assassination… she’s been threatened by the Taliban, ISIL, and - even scarier - the land mafia, local criminal syndicates involved in the highly corrupt and lucrative land trade. She’s not yet even 30 years old.
In her capacity as a trail-blazer and door-opener for a new generation of young women, she has helped to empower the women of Afghanistan. Zarifa may not be able to change the culture of toxic masculinity in her region overnight, but she continues to make a difference. She pushes through every obstacle in front of her - facing discrimination, bias, and threats to her life.
Zarifa has experienced more threats, violence, and hate than most of us can ever imagine. But no matter who we are or what our life experience is, bullies and haters will often try to stand in our way. We should all look to Zarifa as a role model in standing strong and never giving up. Who we are, and what we do, matters. And we might just be able to inspire others along the way!
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