Fawzia Koofi (born in 1975 or 1976) is an Afghan politician and women’s rights activist. Originally from Badakhshan province, she is currently serving as a Member of Parliament in Kabul and is the Vice President of the National Assembly. She has also announced her intention to run as a presidential candidate in the 2014 elections in Afghanistan.
Born into a polygamous family of seven women, she was first rejected by her parents because of her sex. Her father, a member of Parliament, had married a younger woman, and Koofi’s mother sought to have a son to maintain her husbands’ affection. The day she was born, Koofie was left out to die in the sun.
She managed to persuade her parents to send her to school, making her the only girl in the family to attend school. She subsequently graduated from Preston University in Pakistan with a master’s degree in business and management. Her father was a Member of Parliament (MP) for 25 years but died at the end of the first Afghan war (1979-1989), killed by Mujahideens
.Koofi originally wanted to become a physician, but chose to study political science and become a member of UNICEF. She worked closely with vulnerable groups such as Internally Displaced People (IDP) and marginalized women and children, and served as a child protection officer for the organization from 2002 to 2004.
Koofi began her political career in 2001 after the fall of the Taliban, promoting the right to education of girls in her “Back to school” campaign.
In the parliamentary elections in 2005, she was elected to the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the Afghan National Assembly, for the Badakhshan district in the northeastern part of the country and became its Vice-President.
She was the first female Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament in the history of Afghanistan. She was re-elected in the parliamentary elections of 2010 and then elected MP from a total of 69 female members of the Assembly.
She has survived several assassination attempts, including one on March 8, 2010, near the town of Tora Bora.
Koofi is currently running as a candidate in the upcoming 2014 Afghan presidential election. She is running on a platform of equal rights for women, promoting universal education and the opposition to political corruption.
Women’s rights engagement
Koofi has made it a priority to defend women’s rights in Afghanistan.
Some of the key women’s initiatives that she has championed during her tenure as an MP include: the improvement of women’s living conditions in Afghan prisons; the establishment of a commission to combat the issue of violence (especially sexual violence) against children; and the amendment of the shia personal status law. Koofi also promoted education for women and children by advocating for access to good schools and creating opportunities for non-formal education for her constituents in Badakhshan province. In 2009, she was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.
Koofi was married to a man named Hamid, an engineer and chemistry teacher. Her marriage was arranged, but she did not disapprove of her family’s choice. Ten days after their wedding Taliban soldiers arrested her husband and he was imprisoned. In prison he contracted tuberculosis and died shortly after his release in 2003. Koofi lives in Kabul with her two teenage daughters.