Call her the face of changing Afghanistan. Once under Taliban rule,
Afghanistan, which has seen norms forbidding women's participation
in public services is witnessing winds of change. Bachelor's in
Midwife degree holder and English speaking, 30-year-old Azra Jafari
-- the first lady mayor of municipality of the province of Daykondi
in Afghanistan -- juxtaposes the usually perceived image of
terror-struck, house-bound women in Afghanistan for the better. Jafari, who was in Ahmedabad as part of a 14-member Afghani
delegation, talks to DNA while enjoying Sufi Qawwali at the Sarkhej
Roza. She says that the male-dominated society in Afghanistan has
started accepting women as good administrators.
Being first lady mayor in Afghanistan seems outstanding. You always
wanted to get into public service?
Well, yes. I have worked with different communities in Afghanistan
and Iran for 10 years. I was living in Iran initially and returned
to Afghanistan in 2001. Communities I worked with include Centre for
Refugee Students and also for students who wanted to study as I
worked as school manager. With such experience, I wanted to work for
development of Afghanistan. When I was selected as mayor, I was
competing with four men for the post.
How do your male colleagues react to your instructions?
They have to obey me; they have to listen to me. Initially, there
was attitude of ignoring me in what I say. But I started my work
firmly. After some time when I started explaining them the reasons
for my decision, male colleagues at municipality started taking me
as a thinking woman. Gradually people have started accepting women
as good administrator.
How would Ahmedabad visit help you?
Ahmedabad is a nice city. I am here to find out the problems being
faced by the residents and the mechanism to address the problems.
The visit will also help me solve many similar problems in
Afghanistan. I am curious to know about livelihood programmes here.
What is your opinion about the progress of women there?
Things have changed a little after the fall of Taliban. Mindset of
women has been changing. They have started feeling being part of the
international community. Unfortunately, after several years not many
women are in parliament. People are more than fundamentalist.
Patriarchy still prevails in Afghanistan. Respect for women is still
a slogan and not a belief. But still women is making mark and coming
out of shell steadily.
Any special plan for women's upliftment?
I think as a mayor, I have to think of every one and not only for
women upliftment. I want to do many things for civic infrastructure,
for rehabilitation of many Afghani people. Education is one thing I
would like to emphasise upon.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for you as a mayor?
Daykondi province is a new province, established only five years
ago. Though the master plan for the city is ready, we are not
getting the requisite support from the government.