The favored daughter

© Wendy Marijnissen

© Wendy Marijnissen


Last week a wonderful package arrived in my mailbox. In it were a few copies of the audiobook ‘The Favored Daughter’ by Afghan parliament member Fawzia Koofi published by Tantor Audiobooks.

The cover photo of this audiobook is a portrait I took of Fawzia when I met her in Belgium during a book conference. We immediately had an amazing conversation and talked about  maternal mortality and life for women in Afghanistan. This talk led up to me getting on a plane to Kabul a little over a year later and actually visiting her and traveling to her home province of Badakshan in the North-Eastern part of the country. An incredibly beautiful place where the mountains rise up in full glory, but at the same time make life hard and rough.

Fawzia withdrew as a presidential candidate for the upcoming elections in 2014, but remains nonetheless an outspoken politician and human rights activist. She invests a lot of her time in trying to raise education levels, especially for girls who during the Taliban regime were not allowed to go to school at all. It’s wonderful to see how she inspires countless young women to study, work hard and aspire to a promising life .

© Wendy Marijnissen

© Wendy Marijnissen


I just started reading the book written by Malalai Yousafzai (cowritten with Christina Lamb), another girl who is fighting for the right to go to school in Pakistan. Shot in the face by Taliban when she was just 15 years old, because she voiced this right to an education for girls too loudly.

She survived wondrously and is now even more outspoken then before. What is sad to read though is that now in Pakistan, her book is banned in private schools and people are gearing up against her, feeling she is too pro- western and even call her anti-islamic. I’ve heard the same things happen to a rape victim I met while I was in Karachi and working on my story ‘Because I’m a girl’ on rape in Pakistan.

© Wendy Marijnissen

© Wendy Marijnissen

In 2002, Mukhtar Mai, a rural Pakistani woman from a remote part of the Punjab, was gang-raped by order of her tribal council as punishment for her younger brother’s alleged relationship with a woman from another clan. Instead of committing suicide or living in shame, Mukhtar spoke out, fighting for justice in the Pakistani courts.
Further defying custom, she started two schools for girls in her village and a crisis center for abused women.
She wrote her own memoir, “In the Name of Honor” and her story was included in the bestseller “Half the Sky” by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. But all this made people turn against her… I heard and read commentaries that she must have done this on purpose and that she got raped to get money or to try to get a visa to go the West. How else is her advocacy to be explained?

… Horrible…

The responses to Mamala’s story feel the same as Mukhtar’s, and it’s a shame that these women are inspiring countless people all over the world but still can’t seem to be respected in their own country. There is still a long road ahead for sure and it’ only shows the need for more education of both boys and girls. Because education is key and can change things in the long run.


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