First Lady Rula Ghani has said that her involvement in her husband's administration is not a sign of her interest in politics, but rather emblematic of her desire to serve Afghan women and demonstrate their courage and determination.
In an exclusive interview with the Associated Press (AP), Mrs. Ghani expressed her optimism about a prosperous future for Afghan women. She touched on so-called "traditional values," which are often referenced in attempts to restrict Afghan women from being active and equal participants in society.
"I don't do politics," Mrs. Ghani told The Associated Press. Instead, Afghanistan's First Lady sees herself as part sounding board and part women's champion. She described herself as "a counsellor ... a listening post."
To be sure, Mrs. Ghani's role in the public affairs of her husband's government is an unprecedented one in Afghanistan. In the past, Afghan first ladies in never had the presence seen among first ladies in Western democracies. But Rula Ghani seems to be setting a new standard.
"One of my roles is to tell the world that they are very strong women, indeed living in very challenging conditions, showing a lot of resilience, a lot of resourcefulness, and that they need to be recognized for that, not for their weakness, their alleged weakness," Mrs. Ghani said.
One of the First Lady's top priorities is addressing the exceedingly high rates of violence against women in Afghanistan. Recognizing the importance of family in Afghan society, Mrs. Ghani links the overall violence and instability in Afghanistan over the decades with the violence and instability that come to be associated with Afghan families. "I
f you have a harmonious society where people within the family are living in harmony ... knowing what their responsibilities and duties are, and knowing how to resolve their issues and their conflicts without violence, then violence against women will be reduced, and women will feel they have a voice," she said.
Mrs. Ghani expresses optimism when it comes the issue of women's rights and empowerment. "I see it from the people who have come here, and how they are starting to raise certain issues that they didn't raise before — such as whether or not women should be able to walk in the street without being harassed," she said.