Thursday, April 21, 2011

Afghanistan's Fawzia Koofi to visit Vancouver

Every once in a while, a rare opportunity comes along to meet someone who is making history; defining the course of people's lives now and for many generations into the future.

One of those people is Fawzia Koofi. While not a household name here in Canada, her actions and leadership are changing the lives of many in Afghanistan. If you believe in the ripple effect, she's changing lives here too. A well-known activist for democracy and human rights, she's one of the growing number of Afghan women who are standing up to fight for their future, in a society often warped by tradition and war. 

Condoleeza Rice with Fawzia Koofi
She's Afghanistan's most popular female politician, and the first female Deputy Speaker of the Parliament in her country. She was chosen as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and will run for President of Afghanistan in 2014. That is, if she can survive the extremists that dominate politics in this region. She's challenged Hamid Karzai to take a stronger position on human rights before conceding to Taliban insurgents - resulting in the murder of one of her aides just months ago and numerous attempts on her own life. 

She's coming to Vancouver on June 6th to talk about Afghanistan, politics, religion, and her own, very personal experiences. I'm thrilled to be hosting her for two events that day: 

Lunch at the Vancouver Club - REGISTER HERE
11:45 am - 1:45 pm
For the business crowd at lunch, her presentation will focus on the political dynamics at play inside Afghanistan; where the country is headed as involvement from the international community evolves. 

What forces are shaping the political leadership - how influential are the religious extremists? What is the relationship between Afghanistan and its neighbours? How do these dynamics influence us in the West, in terms of energy, security, and economics? 

If you're downtown, this is a great opportunity to host your colleagues and clients for a stimulating presentation. More information and registration details for the lunch event are here.

An Evening at the Kay Meek Centre - REGISTER HERE
7:30 - 9:00 pm
In the evening, I will be hosting her for a larger public event at the Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver. We'll have a little more time, so she'll be broadening her talk to include more of her personal experiences as detailed in her recently published memoir Letters to My Daughters.

"In it, Ms. Koofi describes unflinchingly the wreckage she witnessed at the hands of Afghans of all ideologies and clans: the domestic violence that was a mundane part of family life, gang rape, the burning of a Kabul mosque where dozens of women had sought shelter during the civil war, and the public humiliation and beatings meted out casually by the Taliban."  - An excerpt from a recent Globe & Mail article.

More information and details about how to register for the evening event are here, but read on for a small preview of her story:

On the day Fawzia Koofi was born, her mother set her under the blazing Afghanistan sun to die. The 19th child of 23 in a family with seven wives, her mother did not want another daughter. Despite severe burns that lasted into her teenage years, Koofi survived and became the favourite child.

In Letters to My Daughters, Koofi tells her remarkable life story, one marked by a fierce passion to better the world around her. Koofi''s father was an incorruptible politician strongly attached to Afghan tradition. When he was murdered by the mujahadeen, her illiterate mother decided to send the ten year-old girl to school, and as the civil war raged, Koofi dodged bullets and snipers to attend class, determined to be the first person in her family to receive an education.

Koofi went on to marry a man she loved and they had two cherished daughters, Shohra and Shaharzad. Tragically, the arrival of the Taliban spelled an end to her freedom. Outraged and deeply saddened by the injustice she saw around her, and by the tainting of her Islamic faith, she discovered politics herself.

And thinking about her upcoming visit, this quote really struck me:

"Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls, and interesting people."
Henry Miller

I hope to see you in June!