A Mayor Speaks Out

Azra Jafari is the mayor of Nili, Afghanistan. She took office in December 2008, appointed by President Karzai, and is the only female mayor in the country. 3

As mayor of Nili, Afghanistan, I am guided by the Afghani saying, “You will harvest what you planted before.” It is important for me, and women like me, that we do something now for the future of our children. Afghanistan is on the correct path and, as a mother, I seek to build stability, security, and laws so that none of our children will face violence, war, discrimination, or migration, as we have.

I became mayor from the outside. Involvement with government processes through civil society brought me into direct contact with the government of Afghanistan and the Afghani people, my people. So I have always cared about my country and have found different ways to contribute to my community.

Being mayor of Nili is challenging, and not only because I am a woman. When I started working as mayor there was no city named Nili. It looked like a big village and I worked from scratch. My first fundamental initiative was to create an infrastructure plan for Nili, which the municipality ministry confirmed. I then sought to implement the plan, but unfortunately neither the central government nor the international community has been attentive enough, nor have they provided the funds we need. So while we have a plan for what Nili City needs, we do not yet have roads, electricity, water, canalization, or entertainment places. I have also tried to develop education, cultural, and civic activi- ties, including schools and vocation centers for women and youth. I have focused on capacity building for women to help them in the areas of economic development and women’s rights.

Some people in Afghanistan do not believe a woman should be mayor, but the people of Nili support me. Both men and women are equal. We have the right to live, study, work, think, and make decisions for our society and the destiny of our country. A society in which women are not present in politics, culture, and the economy will be an incomplete and imperfect community.

Without women’s involvement, we will not achieve true democracy or development. In today’s Afghanistan, the presence of women in political, social, and civil activities and affairs is significant. I may be the only female mayor in the country, but there are others in public service.

The world should know that Afghanistan is not only a land of guns, terrorism, bloodshed, violence, and opium. It is a country with an ancient history and a rich background. We honor our constitution and our laws and have as much freedom of speech as elsewhere in the region. My wish is for my people and my country to benefit from development and feel safe and secure.

Join the Conversation