Jerri's Journal: Meetings with the First Lady of Afghanistan and Other Diplomats

May 18, 2015


Day 6

Dress-up day!

We met with the First Lady of Afghanistan, ambassadors from India and Italy, and then Member of Parliament (MP) Shukria Barakzai, with the goal of supporting Women for Afghan Women (WAW).  And of course, we have photos of the group with each one of them -- seems to be an Afghan tradition.

The First Lady, Rula Ghani, gave us a full hour AND said she supported WAW 100 percent. She told us her story.  Before her husband was elected President, they took in a young woman who was in danger of being killed because she refused to accept engagement to the man her father had picked. After a bit of time, Ms. Ghani said she didn't know how to help the woman, how to talk with her, how to help her. She and the woman met with WAW counselors, the woman moved into a shelter, and then the First Lady participated in the mediation sessions with the woman's family.  As the U.S. reps, we made a big pitch for her to come to the WAW spring gala in person in NYC -- where she agreed to keynote. 

The good news: She asked WAW to call her husband's Chief of Staff today (he was waiting to hear from the WAW Director) to help formulate a pardon for many of the women in prison.  She promised to make certain WAW is consulted on several other issues.

We met with the Ambassador from India, Ambassador Amar Sinha. India has been supporting much of the medical work needed by the women and children (cosmetic surgery, bone repairs, etc.).  We brought the case of Mumtaz, who had acid poured on her face by a man she refused to marry. Mumtaz needs five or six more operations (India having paid for the first five) for her recovery. The good news:  The Ambassador is paving the way for WAW with hospitals and a cosmetic surgeon to provide the care for Mumtaz and others free of charge, and hopefully will pay for some of Mumtaz's surgeries. India will walk WAW through the process for expedited immigration for a couple that has to leave Afghanistan quickly, and will open doors for work in Delhi with Afghan women.

The Ambassador from Italy, Ambassador Luciano Pezzotti, met with us in his residence (which was stunning). He is absolutely committed to helping Afghan women and wants WAW to submit a proposal  for special projects to help women develop marketable skills! 

MP Shukria is Chair of the Defense Committee in the "senate" section of Parliament, and quite powerful. She has to approve every single item that comes out of the Defense Committee.  She is our Diane Feinstein! And she is determined to expand women's rights. She has survived two attacks on her life yet she said she will not stop what she is saying and doing.  We began to talk politics but she ended up telling us the story of how she survived a car bomb. She described the whole experience in great detail. She was talking quietly, wondering how she was able to climb out of the car window with her briefcase and purse to ask a man who was bleeding if she could help him, and then deciding to get in a certain taxi to go to the airport.  When we went back to politics, she was very open.

EVERY single discussion dealt with security, the peace negotiations with the Taliban, and the "right way" to go about expanding women's rights. 

Some thoughts discussed:

Security and the peace negotiations: Every person committed to a "red line" (they all used this term)--women's rights will NOT be sacrificed or diluted in any agreement with the Taliban. And the Afghan constitution should NOT be changed. 

Approach for expanding women's rights: The First Lady supports WAW because she believes in its quiet, person-to-person, mediation approach. Felt the same as some of our struggles in the U.S. for women's rights.

Where it all comes together: The President promised to put women at the peace negotiations table and to appoint women to three cabinet positions. Neither has happened yet. And the debate goes on..........



May 13: Jerri Shaw Explores Women's Rights in Afghanistan

May 14: Adventure Begins in Kabul

May 15: International Women's Day in Afghanistan


May 19: Afghan Men on Women's Rights

May 20: Medical Needs of Women in Afghanistan

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