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Afghanistan: One Woman’s Story of Success

The lawyer defying conservative prejudice and motivating others.
By IWPR Afghanistan

An IWPR story about the sole female prosecutor working in the Afghan province of Kandahar has sparked domestic and international attention as well as being hailed as a huge inspiration by local women.

The story, about 26-year-old Zainab and her work in Kandahar’s attorney general's office, was picked up by outlets including Tolo News, Salam Watandar radio, the BBC and the Guardian.

(See Kandahar’s Sole Female Prosecutor).

Having graduated from the Sharia faculty of Kabul university, Zainab has been working in the elimination of violence against women department for the last one-and-a-half years. Her work has been particularly important as conservative traditions mean that it is very hard for many women to talk openly about their problems to a male lawyer.

She told IWPR that the attention and praise she had received following the report about her had been a huge confidence boost.

 “I sincerely thank IWPR and appreciate their efforts, which have helped raise my confidence as well as my public profile,” Zainab said. “It has made me even more aware of my duty to serve women.”

The IWPR article quickly caught the attention of numerous domestic media outlets.

Abdul Qadir Takin, a reporter for Tolo Afghan, said that he had followed up the IWPR article by interviewing Zainab for his own newspaper.

Mohammad Rahim, a reporter for Kandahar’s Salam Watandar radio, also picked up the IWPR story.

“I liked the IWPR report about Zainab, and after reading it I immediately contacted her and we prepared a report for our women’s magazine show,” he said, adding that the package had received overwhelmingly positive feedback from staff and listeners alike.

Rahim continued, “I check IWPR’s website every morning, particularly any stories regarding Afghanistan, so as to read about new issues and use them later to prepare my reports.”

Hayatullah Rafiqi, a former anthropology professor at Kandahar University, said that such reports had a wider social impact, motivating others to also fulfill their potential.

“All media outlets should fulfill their responsibilities like IWPR does, and their reporters should also travel around to pick up such effective topic for their reports,” he said.

Kandahar activist Abdul Samad Wijdan said that the media had an important role to play in highlighting the achievements of strong, productive men and women and in doing so promote civic involvement.

Although a longtime Kandahar resident, he said that he had never previously heard of Zainab and her achievements. Now he felt the promotion of her story would have a significant impact on the wider society.

Abdul Rahman Koshan, director of prosecution at the Kandahar appellate court, agreed.

 “I am pleased with Zainab’s performance as it is getting better day by day and she is now a prosecutor at the regional level,” he said. “I hope that other female prosecutors also come to serve their people.”

Indeed Pashtana, a second-year law student at a private university in Kandahar, said that she had been so inspired by Zainab’s story that she now planned to join the attorney general’s office after graduation.

In a country where social attitudes militate against girls continuing their education past puberty, Zainab’s story has proved particularly inspiring.

Khair Mohammad, a shopkeeper in the Hazrat Jee Baba area of Kandahar province, told IWPR that he had decided to take his 14-year-old daughter out of school due to the taunts and ridicule his family had been subjected to from the local community.

After hearing about Zainab’s story on a number of radio shows, he decided to defy conservative prejudices and allow her to continue her education.

Khair Mohammad said, “I will send my daughter back into the 7th grade in school at the beginning of the new educational year to continue her studies so she can serve her people, just like Zainab the prosecutor.”

This report was produced under IWPR’s Supporting Investigative Reporting in Local Media and Strengthening Civil Society across Afghanistan initiative, funded by the British Embassy Kabul.

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