Girl Crush: Suraya Pakzad

Posted at 1:23 PM Mar 12, 2009

By Kathleen Willcox

The "fall" of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 was billed as a coup for the country, especially women, who under the new constitution were officially recognized as "citizens" with equal rights and duties before the law." The 87% of women who were illiterate and the 30% of young girls who were denied access to education weren't expected to learn to read and enroll in school overnight, but after eight years, some say signs of progress are still too few and far between.

That's where women like Suraya Pakzad come in. In 1988, the mother of six founded Voice of Women, a secret organization to teach women of all ages in Afghanistan to read. She made the group public in 2001 and last year, Pakzad received an International Women of Courage award. The work of Pakzad and women like her have helped 2 million girls enroll in school in Afghanistan, and she isn't stopping there, despite the steep price she has to pay.

Pakzad's pursuit of equal rights and literacy has not gone unnoticed by anyone -- especially the Taliban.

These days, she regularly receives death threats for her no longer covert operation in rural pockets of the country still run by members of the Taliban. This week, she's on Capitol Hill reaching out to President Obama, who has said that he plans to initiate talks with moderate members of the Taliban in an effort to secure peace in the violence-shattered country.

In a hearing titled "Women Shaping Afghanistan's Future," Pakzad warns that any deal with the Taliban must include a pledge to uphold women's rights.

"My hope for my daughters, for the next generation ... is that they should enjoy their freedom," she reportedly said. "[I] hope they have a country free of inequality, free of violence against women, and hopefully they will get that opportunity."


Kalil Camara said:

Suraya is a remarkable woman. I am sure her journey in this movement she has created will not be a walk in the parrk. It is time someone has the courage to stand up and fight for the right of women in Afganistan. It is time the Middle East accepts that those days are over. Every nation has commited the same oppression against women but it's time to quit.

Robert Merrill said:

Get a clue, Obama: there are no "moderate" Taliban...or, if there are, they no doubt keep their views well hidden, lest an arm or leg is lopped off.

mr.zia said:

hi this is mr zia, a proposal writer here in kabul. i have personally met her and she is a miraculous lady. the people of afghanistan must worship this woman before its too late. she is one in trillions and i have no bones to say that i am her fan.

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