Four years ago, Azra Jafari was appointed as the first female mayor in Afghanistan by President Hamid Karzai.
In December 2008, she became the mayor of Nili, a small town in Afghanistan.
She belongs to the minority Hazara ethnic group. Like many of her people, she spent her childhood in Iran, living there as a refugee and got her education from there as well. After the removal of the Taliban in late 2001 and the establishment of the new western-backed Karzai administration, she returned and started participating in local politics.
Even while in Iran, she established an elementary school for Afghan refugees and worked as an Officer in Charge in Refugees' Cultural Center.
As Afghanistan's first woman mayor she was determined to improve one of the country's newest and poorest provinces. It was not an easy task in a male dominated country where most of the male population thinks a woman couldn't do this or any other public job.
She told Reuters soon after her appointment, “Unfortunately, Afghan society has not yet become a society which can accept that women are able to do this job, like any other person.”
When Azra Jafari became mayor of Nili, she knew that the impoverished and remote Afghan town desperately needed roads and investment. She lived in the most basic of conditions with her small daughter on her won, as her husband worked in Kabul.
But she made the best of her office and improved things beyond anyone’s expectations. Her work and commitment towards social development of the area has become legendary.
She has won respect in the very community that once doubted her position as well as ability. She still fights to improve lives and change attitudes towards women in her country.
With the security conditions and civil society in shambles, Afghan women's political participation has increased, now women know how they should run for parliament, now they know if they have enough seats they'll have enough voices in parliament. In a country where male candidates have severe security concerns, those of women are multiplied. They feel particularly targeted at a time when they believe it is crucial for them to be politically engaged. But with women like Azra as an example, more are coming forward and hopefully there will be more examples to follow soon!