Afghan history is replete with women, such as Zarghona Ana, Nazo Ana, Rabia-e Balkhi, Malalai and Naheed Shaheed, who had fought and sacrificed their lives for freedom.
The struggle for rights and freedom of the oppressed has never seized in Afghanistan. One of the names that we hear for the last few years in this unremitting fight for women’s rights is that of Maryam Durrani.
Hailing from Kandahar, Maryam has always raised her voice for the rights of women. In recognition of her relentless work, she was bestowed this year with the “Freedom of Speech Award 2014.”
Managed by the Roosevelt Foundation in Middelburg, the Netherlands, four freedom awards are presented each year to men and women whose achievements have demonstrated a commitment to the principles essential to democracy: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
The other three winners were Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan, Dr Hawa Abdi Diblaawe from Somalia and Prince El Hassan bin Talal from Jordan.
Maryam is an outspoken advocate on the rights of Afghan women and girls. In 2005, when she was just 21, she was elected to Kandahar’s Provincial Council and she was re-elected in 2009. She is the director of a non-profit Khadija Kubra Women’s Association for Culture, whose mission is to empower women to take on leadership roles throughout the country. She is also the owner and manager of the only local, female-focused radio station.
Maryam’s struggle for the cause of women has been recognised internationally. In 2012, the Time Magazine named her as one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World”, stating “Durrani stands up for the region’s women with remarkable bravery.” The US Department of State nominated her for the 2012 International Women of Courage Award.
Acclaimed worldwide, Maryam is nonetheless not content with what she has done so far for Afghan women.
“The work I have done for the people of Kandahar, especially women, is not enough. I have a plan to work more for my people, and I will continue my mission untill my last breath,” she said to Sada-e Azadi magazine.
Her radio station, Marman Radio, has given voice to the women of Kandahar. Local women are encouraged to actively participate in different talk shows and through call-ins to discuss the issues they face.
Maryam gives the credit for her achievements to fellow women. She said, “I am nothing without their support, it’s their support that encourages me to work for my country and my people.”