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Afghan prosecutor receives woman of courage award

Afghan prosecutor receives woman of courage award

By
On
Mar 07, 2011 - 11:24

WASHINGTON (PANinfo-icon): Maria Bashir, the prosecutor general for western Herat province, received the prestigious International Womeninfo-icon of Courage award at a glittering ceremony in washington attended by the wife of the US president, Michelle Obama.

"This award is indeed an inspiration for me, and being a mother ...  this will be something that will be an inspiration for my daughter,” Bashir told reporters soon after receiving the award.

The honour is given every year by the United States to women across the globe who show exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women’s rights and empowerment.

Bashir is the only woman ever to hold the position of prosecutor general in Afghanistaninfo-icon, and has focused much of her work on protecting the rights of women and girls.

She started her law career in the 1990s, and became a criminal investigator in her husband’s home town of Herat, but when the Talibaninfo-icon swept to power in 1996, she, like tens of thousands of other women, was banned from working.

Instead, she set up an underground school for her sisters and other young girls so they could continue their educationinfo-icon.

When the Taliban was forced out in late 2001, she returned to the Attorney General’s office to work as a prosecutor, and in 2006 was named Afghanistan's first female prosecutor general.

Her focus on ensuring justice for women, especially those who have been victims of domestic abuse, has attracted criticism and drawn enemies. She receives daily death threats and has round the clock protection.

The event was hosted by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with Michelle Obama, the wife of the president of the United States, as a guest of honour. The Afghan ambassador to the US, Eklil Hakimi, was also present.  

“As Maria Bashir put it, simply: 'If we women do not accept risks and work, no changes will happen', Michelle Obama said. "So these women have accepted these risks.  They have worked for change.  And time and again, these women have discovered a very simple truth:  that courage can actually be contagious.” 

Clinton also praised Bashir for "defending those who have no legal voice, fighting corruption and bringing hope to women survivors of violence, disfigurement and child marriage".

Bashir later told reporters that the situation of women in Afghanistan was improving in spite of a lot of challenges.

 

“Our office is focusing on corruption, on eliminating violence against women, and at the same time we are trying to reach out to a lot of families and women.  As I said that it is challenging, but hopefully we will be relentless and we will be trying so hard to make sure that we be able to accomplish, and we are optimistic in that regard,” she said. 

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