Educating Afghani Imams about Women’s Rights
Jamila Afghani is the Founder and Program Director of the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organization (NECDO) in Kabul, Afghanistan. Ms. Afghani’s enormously courageous efforts — rooted in knowledge, persistence and vision — aim to educate Imams in Afghanistan about women’s rights in Islam as well as on peace, reconciliation and dispute resolution, with the goal of furthering positive social change. NECDO is a local Afghan women’s NGO serving women, youth, and children and dedicated to educational activities, including establishing libraries.
Ms. Afghani is a winner of the Tällberg Foundation Global Leadership Prize and part of the 2015 class of Tällberg Global Leaders.
Interview with Jamila Afghani
What drives you?
Well, to be honest, I’m a woman. That is why that I feel responsibility. And being an educated woman in this community I feel a double responsibility. And being a women with disability I feel triple of this responsibility, and to be a mother of young kids having two daughters, I feel more of the responsibility.
I believe that this is our country. We have to make it ourselves. Maybe today or tomorrow. Afghanistan must be brought up by the hands of men and women of this country. And, I feel this is my moral and my fate obligation that I should work for my society in order that they may have a better life for the next generation. For my children, for other children of this country, and especially for girls and women.
Why do you think you’re so successful?
I believe that I am using my own people’s language. I never show to them that I am someone from another community. I try to speak in their own language. I am using my clothing. It’s more of that local and traditional way. And more than usually I use Islamic quotation from Quran and Hadith to utilize as a tool for convincing communities. And whether we are educated or not, Islam is the main reason that gives people time to think and to listen to you.
What do you consider your most important accomplishment?
When I was a child my family was very upset I was a girl. And when I was a disabled girl, my family was double upset over that. They were thinking that I might be a burden on their shoulders. I am very happy that all my work for my people, for my society has given that recognition that today my family feels proud of me. Now I am a role model in my family. My nieces, my cousins they are trying to get education and they want to copy my life. And I thank God I am an example for the rest of my community.
In one of my centers in Ghazni Province, a lady she was gossiping all the time after me. She was saying that ‘she is very bad woman, she is traveling alone outside of Afghanistan. She is working with men in her organization.’ But when she had a daughter and she joined our classes and our programs, after a passage of one year when I met that lady, she came to me and she made to kiss my hands and she was telling me, ‘Jamila I have one daughter and three sons. Always I was praying to God that I wish my one daughter was also a son. But, now that she is coming to your center and getting an education and the attitude I can see change in her, I pray to God I wish all of my sons were my daughters and all of my children were like you.’
So these are examples which give me happiness, and I feel that I am not God to change everything but, as a human being, if I am able to light a candle that is what makes me very happy.
Further reading and interviews:
- Give the World’s Women Knowledge and Power, and Peace Will Follow, by Jamila Afghani, published on April 24, 2017, www.TIME.com
- Jamila Afghani Offers A Leadership Model For The World, by Alan Stoga