A prominent Afghan woman leader is one of the recipients of this year’s Profile in Courage Awards from the Kennedy Library Foundation, which will be presented at a ceremony in Boston, MA tonight. Dr. Sima Samar has been a leader for women’s rights and human rights in Afghanistan. A physician who defied Taliban edicts and provided Afghan women and girls with health care services and education, she is currently the chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Samar served as Minister of Women’s Affairs, one of only two women cabinet members in Afghanistan’s transition government. In 2003, Samar was named a “Woman of the Year” by Ms. magazine.
Despite facing strong political opposition, including death threats from fundamentalists, Samar presses forward. As the director of the Shuhada Organization, she also runs twelve clinics and four hospitals for women and children, as well as 55 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, serving 32,000 students. Her organization’s programs encompass relief work and literacy education, as well as community education regarding family planning and sanitation.
The Profiles in Courage Award is named for the John F. Kennedy Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name. Recipients are selected who demonstrate political courage and a commitment to public service. Along with Dr. Samar, recipients of the award this year include former North Carolina State Representative Cindy Watson (R) and former Oklahoma State Senator Paul Muegge (D).