The female politician fighting for democracy in Afghanistan

Shukria Barakzai is an unstoppable force in Afghanistan’s political landscape that is dominated by men and the Taliban.

As a member of the Afghan parliament, a journalist, women’s rights advocate and member of the US-backed Afghan government, she is a prime target for the Taliban.

Barakzai’s devotion to women’s rights began after she was beaten by the militant group for walking the streets of Kabul without a male companion.

Afghanistan is one of the most difficult places to live as a woman, where 85 per cent are illiterate and more than 50 per cent are married or engaged by the age of 12. In being the voice of women’s rights she has received death threats and condemnation from opposing sides. She has previously lost two of her children, victims of the vicious acts of the Taliban.

She founded an underground school for girls and a national weekly newspaper for women that informed the women of her community on any updates to health care, education and Afghan society in general.

In June, she was part of the first all-female delegation to sit down with representatives from the Taliban in a meeting in Oslo in June.

Her world was turned upside down when, in November last year, Barakzai survived a suicide bomb attack that targeted her car. The incident killed three bystanders and wounded 22. Two days later, while still wounded on her hands and face, Barakzai addressed the media from her hospital bed.

“Being a woman in Afghanistan is a big problem because the society receives you sometimes as an item, not as a human,” she said.

When her husband Ghaffar Zakhel took a second wife without telling her, Barakzai felt hurt and a victim of a system that supports polygamy. She has since campaigned against multiple marriages and encouraged women not to become a second wife and marry into a polygamist environment.

A year later, she beat him in the 2005 parliamentary elections. While he spent half a million dollars to help his campaign, she campaigned on the streets with a loud speaker only, and succeeded in winning people’s votes in a true testament to the power of grass-roots

“Our patriarchal society does not like to hear this voice, it’s a voice that even Afghan politicians want to silence,” Barakzai once said.

“But despite these problems, I and millions of other Afghan women have been successful through our tireless efforts to open a small glimpse of hope, for the future generations and for the children of Afghanistan.”

Photos taken from Reuters and Shukria Barakzai’s Facebook.

Article originally published on MiNDFOOD.