Afghanistan’s first female Parliament speaker comes to Manhasset

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Fawzia Koofi, the first female Parliament speaker in Afghanistan, is coming to speak at Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock on Oct. 22. (Photo courtesy of Fawzia Koofi)

Shortly after Fawzia Koofi was born, her mother left her to die.

Koofi wrote in her memoir, “The Favored Daughter,” that her mother, who was disappointed Koofi was not a boy, changed her mind about a day later and began devoting her life to her daughter.

Koofi was the only female in her family of 23 children in a polygamous household to attend school and later earned her master’s degree in business and management.

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset is hosting Koofi as part of the Shelter Rock Forum program, Colin Woodhouse, the volunteer chairman, said. Koofi will speak at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Copies of “The Favored Daughter” will be available for sale at the forum.

“We have a few themes this year, and one is honoring those people who exhibit moral courage in lifting up the inherent worth and dignity of each and every person,” Woodhouse said. “She fits that criteria, first as an amazingly courageous woman being speaker of the assembly in Afghanistan, having written a book about her life, revealing a very personal, very heart wrenching details about her life.”

Woodhouse said Koofi has seen many of her family members killed by Taliban soldiers but still persisted in her career as a politician since 2001. She was elected to the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the Afghan National Assembly, during the 2005 parliamentary elections and became the first female second deputy speaker of Parliament in the history of Afghanistan.

Koofi has spent much of her time in office focusing on women’s rights, a hot topic across the Middle East, which helped her get re-elected in 2010 and 2014. Koofi currently serves as chairperson of Afghanistan’s Women, Civil Society and Human Rights Commission.

“We want to give the community a chance to get a sense of what’s going on in Afghanistan from the people’s perspective,” Woodhouse said. “She represents a constituency that’s not the administration. We want to hear what the average Afghan is saying about what it’s like to endure 40 years of war, 16 years of American participation in the conflict and what’s her prognosis for the future.”

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