I'm going to be governor, one Afghan woman announces through her burqa; and I the mayor!, another declares; and, a spirited third wants to take over the department for women's affairs. Rangina walks into the embroidery cooperative she founded in Kandahar and finds the women, fingers flying with needles and thread, plotting a coup of their government(!), their imaginations on fire with just how they would run the show.
A United Nations study names Afghanistan as one of the worst places in the world to be a woman—hardly one where women might ever dream of overtaking the government. But, Rangina realized, because these women had come together in one space—one that was safe, was theirs, and which allowed imagination to flourish, they dared to think about, not just what is, but what could be. (First, the mind must see… )
The grave irony is that Rangina's father, in fact, had been the much-loved Mayor of Kandahar, opening paths for women, when a suicide bomber with explosives in his turban took him out.
Losing her inspiration and closest ally could have shut Rangina down. The story of how she stayed—in the face of constant threats—for the 500 women using their refined embroidery skills to find a way forward; how she built a new school where girls, as well as boys, could imagine a different world; how she rose to be the first female Minister of Education for the entire country; how she successfully negotiated with the Taliban to reopen the cooperative they had shut down… this is the story of a Global Champion for Women.
As a bridge between the women of the United States (where she grew up and graduated from the University of Virginia) and the women of Afghanistan (where she was born and to which she returned with a vision), Rangina stands in between, with one foot in each of two radically different realities. It can be lonely here. It can be powerful.
Next week, the Ibu Foundation is honoring Rangina Hamidi as our first annual Global Champion for Women. On International Women's Day, she comes to us to open minds, just as she did in Kandahar—to give us new eyes to see the women of Afghanistan and how we might imagine our futures together.
Rangina's road is rife with land mines, detours, and yet, startling achievements. What I marvel to see in this dear friend's life is how she daily puts one foot in front of the other, never wavering from her vision. I invite you into this story, into the vision Rangina holds, even in exile from her home country.
Imagine, as did the women of Kandahar, a coup d’état, indeed, overturning hostility with respect, defeating inequities with education, walking together in sovereignty, and giving voice, at last, to the story of women, everywhere.
All the best,
If you're unable to attend the March 8th event in Charleston, you may want to donate to the Ibu Foundation work with women in Afghanistan by visiting WeAreIbu.org. Mention Kandahar Treasure in the note section and those proceeds will go directly to the group of women which Rangina founded. Since the Taliban take-over last August, this is one of the very few ways to directly support women in that country. We consider it a honor to further that relationship in the midst of the turmoil and uncertainty which surrounds them.