Posted at 1:23 PM Mar 12, 2009
By Kathleen Willcox
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."