Wazhma Frogh: Opening the Doors for Women in Afghanistan

Posted by Ruth Bennett
March 9, 2009
2009 International Women of Courage Award Recipients: Wazhma Frogh, Afghanistan

About the Author: Ruth Bennett serves as the Public Affairs Advisor for the Office of International Women’s Issues. This entry is one in a series of profiles of the 2009 International Women of Courage Award recipients.

Wazhma Frogh believes in changing systems from within, and is willing to stake a lot on her beliefs. In 2002, when she visited a conservative district in northeastern Afghanistan, the activist overheard the local mullah urging male worshippers to stop her plans to start a literacy program for women. Ms. Frogh marched into the mosque, she told a Christian Science Monitor reporter, and challenged the mullah to hear her out. She recited a number of Koranic passages that supported education, and she decried the use of Islam to justify domestic violence and child marriage. The mullah listened, and then endorsed her plans to start the literacy program.

Ms. Frogh uses her scholarly knowledge of Islam to convince religious leaders to modify their views of women – views, she claims, that are often rooted more in provincial local traditions than in the real essence of the faith. "My goal is to really represent Islam,” she told the Christian Science Monitor. “It's not a religion that oppresses women."

Her activism began at a young age. In the eighth grade, she offered tutoring to her landlord’s children in exchange for reduced rent, so as to ensure that she and her sisters would be able to continue school. At age 17, she used her internship at a prestigious Pakistani newspaper to expose poor living conditions and abuses of women’s rights in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan.

Ms. Frogh currently works as the Afghanistan Country Director for Global Rights, an international human rights organization. She’s launched public debates on domestic violence and marital rape in Afghanistan, both previously unmentionable topics in her country. She persuaded mullahs to join her in a month-long campaign of speaking out against domestic violence, and, by mobilizing a group of over 35 civil society organizations, convinced the government of Afghanistan to take action against child rape. Ms. Frogh also provides training to policewomen on issues surrounding domestic violence and child abuse.

Wazhma Frogh’s bold outspokenness for women, children, and social justice makes her a target in her conservative and volatile society. Her bravery creates safety for those whom the laws make vulnerable, and her commitment to peaceful change through the force of her intellect and persuasive skills creates both opportunity and inspiration for other women to do the same.



Maryland, USA
March 9, 2009

Patrick in Maryland writes:

What a Brave Woman, she is fighting for the rights of women in a country a war. That must be a hard thing to do for anyone. I hope she stays safe, or trys too. I also hope the war in Afghanistan is over soon, and Wazhma can forward the rights of her People.

Exceptional job, Wazhma Frogh .

Cya :)

California, USA
March 10, 2009

Wendy in California writes:

Even though I've been an activist for peace my whole life and been reviled for carrying my TEACH PEACE sign downtown every day for six years, I've never had to have Ms. Frogh's daily daring.

Thank you PAA Bennett for these deeply compelling stories.

New Mexico, USA
March 10, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

The promise of a nation lies in such a courageous spirit. As the courage to change mindsets and bold deeds have always proved their worth to the betterment of the human conditon.

A little incident in Mohammed's life I recall from my readings of the Koran:

A young man wishing to join his father in Jihad came into Mohammed's tent and asked,

"Who is more worthy of my respect, my father or my mother?""Your mother." Mohammed replied.

"Who then is most worthy of my respect?""Your mother.""Who then?""Your father, now go home and take care of your mother."


The Taliban should take Mohammed's advice.

United Kingdom
March 16, 2009

Nishtha in the United Kingdom writes:


My name is Nishtha, i read about you and wanted to congratulate you. you are doing a great job.


Andrew S.
New York, USA
March 26, 2009

Andrew S. in New York writes:

This woman is a hero! It's amazing to read that one person can effectively change minds and the world. People like this serve as inspiration for the rest of us!

California, USA
April 14, 2009

Georgiann in California writes:

Wazhma Frogh is an inspiration to all of us! Her courage and determination are phenomenal. I have many Afghan female friends who have survived to share their own and others cruel stories. Bless you, Wazhma Frogh. You give hope to those that believe there is not any.

The Prophet Mohammed married a widow fifteen years his senior, a successful business woman who owned a caravan. It is my understanding that historian's believe that the Prophet Mohammed did not see women as chattel and that he treated women with great dignity and respect.

Wazhma Frogh resonates the tenets of her faith, working hard to bring her country's people back to the truth.


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