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Winning Over 1,000 Men at a Sports Match

January 20, 2014

sarobi1 Being a male politician in Afghanistan, a primitive country with a long history of foreign government interference and violence, is no easy gig. But try being a female politician in this male-dominated society, one where the Taliban is re-emerging as the coalition partners (led by the U.S.) have mostly drawn down. Courage is one word that quickly comes to mind.

Dr. Habiba Sarobi is one of my choices for my Leadership 2013: An All-Star Female Line Up!

A 57 year-old hematologist, she became governor of Bamyan Province in 2005, the first female governor in Afghanistan. She worked hard at instituting reforms in a post-Taliban environment. However, during the frightening period of Taliban rule pre-911, she and her children took refuge in Pakistan. Take a moment to watch this short video.

Dr. Sarobi’s work has been especially aimed at strengthening women’s rights. Consider that just four years before being appointed as governor by President Karzai, women were forbidden to wear lipstick or be educated. The burka was a common sight. However, she used the burka as a tool to sneak into Afghanistan during her self-imposed exile to see her husband (who stayed to care for his parents) and to open a network of underground schools for girls.

Rather than accept President Karzai’s offer to be an ambassador when she was minister for women’s affairs, she insisted to be appointed governor. Her first few months as governor were a little rocky, especially when a snowstorm prevented her from reaching Bamyan. Then some 300 males staged a noisy protest shortly after she arrived. However she got past those obstacles, and it wasn’t long until she won over the male contingent, notably when 1,000 men gave her a standing ovation at a sport match.

A pragmatist in contrast to ardent feminist, Dr. Sarobi gets things done. Recently, she has moved to national politics where she is one of five female candidates for vice-president in the April 2014 elections.

Stability is found in freedom — not in conformity and compliance.

Margaret Wheatley

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