ET Women's Forum: Fawzia Koofi, Afghanistan’s first woman MP, says women have to enter ‘no-entry zone’

Afghanistan’s first woman MP said that it is important for women to venture into uncharted territory.

Agencies
Fawzia Koofi, Afghanistan’s first woman member of parliament
The Economic Times Women’s Forum 2019 took forward the mission that it launched last year — to collaboratively and urgently build a sustainable culture of empowering India’s half a billion women — through a scintillating day of conversations and debates about encouraging greater participation and reducing gender inequality in every sphere of life, work, and play.

Over two decades have passed, but Fawzia Koofi, Afghanistan’s first woman member of parliament, still chokes up when she recollects the incident that took place barely a week into her marriage with Hamid Ahmadi, a university professor.

Ahmadi was picked up by the Taliban and incarcerated without a formal trial.


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India’s first transgender music band, 6 Pack Band, kick-started the event with an enthralling performance.

India’s first transgender music band, 6 Pack Band, kick-started the event with an enthralling performance.

Priyanka Gill, CEO, POPxo and Plixxo (L), and Sudhir Sethi, chairman, Chiratae Ventures, discuss start-up culture in India.

Priyanka Gill, CEO, POPxo and Plixxo (L), and Sudhir Sethi, chairman, Chiratae Ventures, discuss start-up culture in India.

Noor Jahan, goalkeeper, Indian ice hockey team, and Harjinder Singh Jindi, general secretary, Ice Hockey Association of India, have a light-hearted moment at a panel discussion on sports.

Noor Jahan, goalkeeper, Indian ice hockey team, and Harjinder Singh Jindi, general secretary, Ice Hockey Association of India, have a light-hearted moment at a panel discussion on sports.

Kanta Singh, (L) Gender Lead, United Nations Development Programme, and Sanchita Mitra of SEWA Bharat talk about mentoring the next generation of entrepreneurs in the country.

Kanta Singh, (L) Gender Lead, United Nations Development Programme, and Sanchita Mitra of SEWA Bharat talk about mentoring the next generation of entrepreneurs in the country.

Birgit Liodden (L), Director of Sustainability, Ocean Industries & Communication, Oslo Business Region, strikes a pose at the event after her power-packed session on going beyond the #MeToo movement.

Marianne Hagen (R), Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Norway, also poses for shutterbugs at the forum.

Birgit Liodden (L), Director of Sustainability, Ocean Industries & Communication, Oslo Business Region, strikes a pose at the event after her power-packed session on going beyond the #MeToo movement...
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Independent director Ireena Vittal, stops for the cameras before her panel discussion on women in the boardroom during the forum.

Independent director Ireena Vittal, stops for the cameras before her panel discussion on women in the boardroom during the forum.

Singer Prateek Kuhad brought the power-packed day to a close as he serenaded the audience at the closing ceremony.

Singer Prateek Kuhad brought the power-packed day to a close as he serenaded the audience at the closing ceremony.

Fawzia Koofi and Julia Gillard engage in conversation during the forum.

Fawzia Koofi and Julia Gillard engage in conversation during the forum.

“When I went to visit him in jail, veil firmly in place, the Taliban commander noticed my nail polish… He hurled a stone at me, saying nail polish is anti-Islamic,” Koofi told a gathering of over 300 women attending the ET Women’s Forum.

Koofi went back home that day, promising to never return. But a week later, she returned to the same jail and the same commander – with the same request to meet her husband.

“At some point in life, we feel, the time has come to give up… But then that one reason, which we believe in, forces us to plod on. I’d say to all present here — don’t give up,” Koofi exhorted, amidst thunderous applause.
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In her 20-minute address, Koofi recollected the trials and tribulations she had to undergo as a woman living in Afghanistan. She told the gathering about her childhood in a male-dominated household.

“I faced challenges right from day one of my life. The first person who was unhappy (with her birth) was my mother… She didn’t want another girl to suffer the way she did,” Koofi said.

Koofi spoke about her struggles to get a good education, respect from family members and her political career – all laced with poignant anecdotes.
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“My struggle was to prove my identity… People voted for me not because I was my father’s daughter, but because they liked me,” she said.

The feisty lawmaker from Afghanistan ended her address with a clarion call to women around the world.

“It’s important for women to enter the ‘no-entry zone’… Places where it’s not convenient for a woman. We fight, we survive, we live,” she summed up.
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