Afghanistan's Ambitious First Woman Governor

Habiba Sarabi
Image via Wikipedia

Most Westerners know of Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province thanks to the massive stone Buddhas blown up there in 2001 by the Taliban.  Today it’s home to the nation’s first woman governor, Habiba Sarabi.

A province of 60,000 people, Bamiyan hopes to attract tourists. “Bamiyan people are very open,” Sarabi recently told the Financial Times.

A former pharmacist and minister of women’s affairs, she’s optimistic her gender will prove advantageous in her work, she told the Times:

“Always men think that they are leaders, they are the commanders, so they can do anything they want…If there will be  conflict between  two tribes, I will go to them and talk with them, they respect me as a sister, as a mother.”

Her province, she tells the Times, has 110,000 girl students — the highest rate in the country. Here’s a video (albeit 19 minutes long) that features her. Time magazine named her an environmental hero in 2008 for creating  Afghanistan’s first national park, Band-e-Amir, which opened in May.

The park has six spectacular lakes, a deep and striking shade of turquoise and the area was, in the 1970s, part of the “hippie trail”. My mom made the journey there then and was fortunate enough to have seen the Buddhas in their undamaged splendor. I’ve always wanted to visit Afghanistan. It will be interesting to see when or how tourism returns as a viable form of industry there.

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