Farkhunda Zahra Naderi is a passionate young MP from Afghanistan - one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a female politician. She was elected to parliament in 2010 and became President of IPU’s Committee on Democracy and Human Rights in 2014.
Farkhunda Zahra Naderi is a passionate and determined young MP from Afghanistan – one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a female politician – who has given voice to a new way of engaging with politics in her country.
She defines herself as a critic and as an idealist, as someone who went through a long inner battle before joining politics, and who, in the end, chose “to engage, to fight, to go in the field, rather than staying away from things”.
“My father always said I had to be a politician, to serve people, and I thought I didn’t need to be a politician to serve people, that I could do it through civil society. I always seemed to go in the opposite direction to show I was not going into politics, but eventually I ended up here,” she says.
Her father is Alhaj Sayed Mansoor Naderi, a prominent leader of the Ismaili Shia community in the central province of Baghlan, who served as vice-president of parliament during the monarchy and worked with the government in the 1980s before being expelled by the Taliban from his region. He returned there a decade ago.
So politics runs in her blood. It shows when she talks about her political vocation: “Any political will starts from human rights and human co-feelings, from human values and democracy, meaning that people are the essential core of power. I believe in politics that prioritises benefiting people, meaning politics based on people’s will and people’s needs.”
After studying in Afghanistan, the UK and Uzbekistan, she joined the National Solidarity Party of Afghanistan (HMPA) and was elected to parliament in 2010. With a passion for art and poetry, she has played a central role in the reconstruction of the Hakim Nasir Khusrow Balkhi Cultural Centre and Public Library in Kabul, founded by her father.
The treatment of women in her country drives her eagerness to change things. “If I go back to my childhood, and before I became aware of gender issues, I knew the reality, seeing other women and the sacrifices they made. I would notice as an observer that it was not just, and I was never satisfied with the answers I would get to my questions about it,” she recalls.
Being a woman is also what keeps her fighting. “Feeling responsible towards the country I am part of and towards gender issues, knowing the existing violations and the rejection of our existence, does not leave me any other option than being in politics and raising my voice,” she says.
Her time in parliament has taught her other lessons too. "When you are an idealist going into politics you become a disillusioned idealist, because reality says something else," she says. "You realise that in politics perfectionism is the enemy of good."