Afghan Woman is Country’s Only Female Village Chief

by Diana Denza

There’s a woman in a small village who, against all odds, dares to challenge authority and ride a motorbike to fight crime. And no, I’m not talking about Lisbeth Salander.

The 50-year-old Zarifa Qazizadah, who was forced to marry at 12 and now has 15 children and 36 grandchildren, is Afghanistan’s sole female village chief. That’s a feat in itself, but the BBC reports that this brave leader has even remortgaged her home to pay for the posts and cables needed to provide the Naw Abad village with electricity. Approximately 700 households are currently under her care, according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle

Did I mention that if you ever manage to drive your Jeep straight into a ditch in her village, you can expect Qazizadah to pull it right out with a tractor? 

“I got behind the steering wheel of a tractor after scaring the driver away,” she explained to Deutsche Welle. “He shouted at me saying women couldn’t drive so I told him to shut up and pulled the car out.”

Think that’s badass? Well, it gets better. Women can pray in the village’s only mosque alongside men, thanks to her efforts. Pretty damn good for a woman who once had to drop out of school to marry and bear children.

As a girl, the young Qazizdah told the BBC that she was “little more than a servant” in the home of her husband’s family. For me, this conjured up horrific memories of the story of Sahar Gul, a 15-year-old Afghan girl who was brutally tortured by her in-laws for refusing to sell her body. Despite being broken by the traumatic ordeal, the young teen stood up and her story was heard ‘round the world. Earlier in May, she watched her heartless abusers receive a sentence of 10 years each in prison.

Of course, it’s far from easy sailing for Qazizadah when it comes to dealing with misogynistic men. She told Deutsche Welle that some men laugh at her simply because she is a woman. She, along with every other woman in the country, may also have to face intensely limiting laws should President Karzai accept the recommendations of a senior council of Islamic clerics. If adopted, one of the laws would place tough restrictions on women’s work.

But it seems like nothing will stop her from fighting for her goal: a place in the national parliament. We’re rooting for you, Zarifa! 

(Image via Global Finland) 

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