“However, even losing that election did not deter Qazizadah from keeping her election promise. She travelled to Kabul, with her four-year-old daughter in tow, to insist upon a meeting the Minister for Power. While she was able to obtain his agreement, she was not able to get any funding. Again, this obstacle did not faze her; she remortaged her house and borrowed money (which has since been repaid) to pay for the work and, a mere five months later, the village had electricity. Furthermore, the profits from the electricity were able to fund a much-needed road bridge.
Unsurprisingly, Qazizadah was elected two years later. Her next project was building the first mosque for the village where, uniquely for Afghanistan, men and women can pray together. Impressive as these achievements are, what has really been highlighted by these media stories is Qazizadah’s fearlessness and willingness to intervene in situations in the same way as a male village chief would. Travelling by herself provides no difficulty; she dons a false moustache and some men’s clothing and rides on her motorbike. To the astonishment of onlookers, she was able to use her tractor to pull a car out of a ditch. Additionally, she informs men that she needs only their prayers. She’ll intervene for them with the government and that, if they hear any disturbances, she’ll come with her gun and investigate.
All the above does sound super indeed, but hidden in the media coverage, a question arises: if Qazizadah lost the election in 2004, but was then elected two years later in 2006, this means she has been in post for six years, so why is it only now we are hearing about her achievements? A Google search brings up nothing prior to last week. Why is this? It not as if she is unknown outside of her village, since she has won 18 awards from the Afghanistan Government.
A strong possibility is that with the imminent NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan, the media is trying to construct a positive narrative of the NATO invasion. Another recent BBC story, this time praising the Afghani Army, would also indicate that this narrative-building is occurring. Interestingly, in the original article, Qazizadah was not asked her opinion on either the NATO invasion or its upcoming withdrawal, which again seems a rather odd omission.”
In a male-dominated society that has for years been controlled by the ultra-conservative Taliban, the emergence of the first female village chief took everyone by surprise.
After being ridiculed by male villagers for wanting to occupy political office, Zarifa Qazizadah, the mother of 15 children, managed to become the mayor of Naw Abad, a village in the northern Balkh province.
Qazizadah’s political ambition started in 2004 when she told her mocking fellow villagers that she wanted to represent them and promised to supply Naw Abad with electricity.
“I am telling the men in my village that if they have any problems, I will talk to the government on their behalf and in case of any trouble at night, I will carry my gun and come to your houses to solve the problem,” she said.
Qazizadah added that she is willing to be disguised as a man and drive a motorcycle in the middle of the night if this will enable her to help her people.
She lost the 2004 elections but kept her promise as far as connecting the village to electricity is concerned. Two years later, the same men who ridiculed Qazizadah asked her to run for head of the village and she finally succeeded.
Currently, Qazizadah’s priority is guarding the electricity supply in Naw Abad and making sure there are no power thefts in the neighborhood.
“I cannot allow this to happen,” she said. “It is against the law.”
Qazizadah also kept her promise about handling problems that occur at night – she dons men’s clothes, gets on her motorcycle, and heads to where the trouble is. According to her, disguise is better in a conservative society that would be shocked to see a woman on a motorcycle late at night.
Qazizadah also uses her own field tractor to tow cars that break down in the middle of the road or get stuck in the mud.
“She does things men are incapable of,” said Mulawi Sayed Mohamed, one of the villagers.