Just a few days after moving to the presidential palace, Afghanistan’s new First Lady Rula Ghani said that she hopes to encourage greater respect for women.
Rula Ghani already broke tradition by participating in her husband, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai’s, campaign for President. He even thanked her during his inaugural address for her continuous support, calling her “Bibi Gul,” a term of endearment. Rula points to her husband’s emotional tribute in his inauguration speech as a sign of the changing norms for Afghan women. “By mentioning me the way he did,” she said, “my husband really showed exactly what I mean by helping Afghan women be more assertive, more conscious of their role, more respected.”
The new First Lady knows that there is still a long way to go. “I am not looking to change the existing social structure,” she told the BBC, noting that she is aware of the sensitive nature of Afghanistan’s conservative society. She also plans to work within the existing framework of Afghanistan’s focus on family to open new opportunities for women. “Having lived in the West, I have suffered from not having an extended family around me,” she said. “I would like to give women out there the courage and the possibility to do something about improving their lives.”
President Ghani’s support of the First Lady and her activities to improve status of women seems to be an indication that the new Afghan administration will support efforts to advance women and girls’ education, health care and political status. The President has already said that he wants Afghan women represented at the highest levels of government, and he promised to encourage the participation of women in Afghan politics by forming a Women Advisory Board during meetings with civil society and women’s groups within his first week in office.
Media Resource: BBC News 10/15/14; Feminist Newswire 9/22/14, 9/29/14