Editor’s note: Saira Shakeeb Sadat took office in January as Khwaja Do-Koh district chief in the northern Jowzjan province of Afghanistan. Her election followed the election of Habiba Surabi as the first female provincial governor—she heads Bamiyan province in central Afghanistan.
When I first read the news about Saira Shakeeb Sadat, the first female district governor to be elected in Afghanistan, I couldn’t believe it.
We already had a female governor in Bamiyan province and a female mayor in Daikundi, but this was the first time that I heard about a district being governed by a woman.
How was it possible that a woman could do her duty right among the insurgents and antigovernment people in a province where security is not very good? It seemed that I was reading a fabricated story. But it was a reality and it made me wonder.
She must have faced many obstacles to reach this position. In a district like hers, there is no guarantee of security. There is no guarantee of controlling a local government, especially on the nights that insurgents implement their plans. There is always the possibility of threats against her life, even now.
But she is a very brave Afghan woman. This has encouraged me to perform my own duties better than ever. I support her by encouraging other women to go out, to not be afraid of the looks and stares from men, particularly in rural areas.
Saira started her job as a district governor in January, while confronting many problems such as telephone threats, possible discouragement from her family, people staring at her when she spoke in a crowd, or her office personnel disobeying her.
I can picture a day in her life, where she prepares happily to go to work, but there is always a nagging stress in her heart. She must face the world in a way that ensures people will accept her. She succeeded. Saira proved that Afghan women do not have to stay home and accept or believe in limitations.
If men do not accept her today or tomorrow, eventually they will accept her in the coming months. This idea that a women is governing them will grow old, and new subjects—like her ability to work on behalf of people—will take its place.
And she is not alone. Other women support her. Society will support her if she does a good job, and I am sure she will.
While Saira is only the first district governor, others like her will follow and there will be a second and a third woman district governor in the future. This is a good moment to forget about the traditional roles of men and women and to think about how the work can be a higher priority than gender.
Video from Al Jazeera.