Zeinab Husseini, 19, sits in the drivers seat of her vehicle accompanied by her husband. (photo: Moises Saman for The New York Times)
Second Lt. Nahida Rezai, 25, was the first woman to join the Afghan National Police in the town of Bamian. (photo: Moises Saman for The New York Times)
Habiba Sarabi, governor of Bamian (photo: Zalmai for TIME)
So I know that last week’s headline was kind of a bummer. Knowing that sexist men get paid more is kind of like saying the CEO of a long-established investment firm should get more than 300 million dollars in bonuses even if his firm ends up declaring one of the largest bankruptcies in history, thereby contributing to the current global financial meltdown. Ahahaha! Wouldn’t that be a riot? What’s that? That actually happened? Oh.
Well, sexism and financial crises aside, fear not fellow citizens of the GBD! For the plucky women of Bamiyan, Afghanistan are here to lift your spirits!
First up is Habiba Sarabi – governor of Bamiyan. And not just any governor mind you, but the first and only female governor in Afghanistan. And this woman’s got spunk. Bamiyan’s a small town, ravaged by years of war and hardship. So you would think (ok, so I would think) with all the problems that come with war, that protecting the environment would be the least of the governor’s worries. And I would be wrong. She is working to establish Band-i-Amir as Afghanistan’s first national park, and she means business. When a platoon from the Afghan National Army visited the park and left their trash behind, Governor Sarabi called them back and lectured them – told them to clean up after themselves. The army. Yeah…she’s not joking around.
Next up are regular citizens like Nahida Rezai and Zeinab Husseini, who are breaking down cultural and gender barriers in order to support their families. Rezai is the first woman to join the police force in Bamiyan. Husseini is the first woman to drive in Bamiyan. Yep. To drive. Think about that one for a second.
And finally, there are the many women of the 17,000 Community Development Councils throughout Afghanistan, including Bamiyan. There are both men’s and women’s councils, each of which come up with their own ideas for local development projects. In Bamiyan, one of the projects the women’s council came up with was to install solar panels to provide light, and now the project has opened up all sorts of possibilities, such as computers, televisions, and educational programs. You can read more about all of these fabulous women here.
Why do you think the women of Bamiyan have been able to make this kind of progress, despite all of the obstacles and hardship they face? Actually, hold that thought. First I should ask…do you think what is happening with these women IS progress? There are quite a few people in the world who would argue otherwise – that to continue with this type of change will only lead to the breakdown of the very fabric holding their communities together. Thoughts?