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Saima Khugyani, Afganistán
Saima is originally from Ningarhar, Afghanistan. She attended grade school in Parwan and was a student at Kabul University before she was forced to leave the city in 1993 due to the escalating Civil War. Saima fled to the province of Ningarhar and began teaching at a girl’s school. During the time of Taliban rule, Saima continued to teach girls but did so in the privacy of households.
After the Taliban were overthrown in 2001, Saima involved herself in various governmental and philanthropic activities. She attended the Emergency Loya Jirga, became a member of the Independent Commission on Human Rights, worked for the ICRC for a year, assisted President Karzai’s presidential campaign, reported for Voice of America, and became a working member of the EU sponsored Women’s Independent Candidates Coalition (Independent Parliamentary Association of Afghan Women (IPAAW).
When the opportunity arose for her to run for Parliament last year, she ran on a platform of promoting women’s rights throughout the country. She feels “strongly optimistic for the future of Afghanistan and the Parliament. For the first time Communists, high officials of the Mujahideen, and Warlords are all talking to each other instead of fighting each other.”
While she expressed optimism for the new Parliament, Saima is concerned that female MPs are being marginalized and not taken seriously. She states that “we (women) will struggle until we have become equal.” Saima will be able to work toward this goal as the new Chairwomen of the Women’s Committee in the Parliament
Saima is also presently a member of Mili Paigham, an independent coalition group in the Parliament, formed by IRI, in order to bring together fellow independent-minded parliamentarians to promote Afghan democracy. “I’m very thankful for the assistance of IRI. They have assisted us with many trainings and have given us much in regards to capacity building.”