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Zarifa Qazizadah, 50-Year-Old Mother Of 15, Becomes Afghanistan's First Female Village Chief

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A 50-year-old mother of 15 is changing the rules in Afghanistan. Overcoming significant obstacles, Zarifa Qazizadah has become the first female village chief in the country, BBC World Service reports.

According to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, Qazizadah was married off at the age of 12. By the time she was 15, she was already a mother. She wasn't able to continue her education despite ambitions of becoming a judge.

Today, though, Qazizadah, in her role as head of Naw Abad village, is fighting for female equality. She built the village's first mosque -- a space where men and women can pray together side by side. "Before, women had to pull a curtain and then pray after the men were finished," she told Deutsche Welle.

Despite facing male opposition, Qazizadah has managed to win the village's men over with hard work and good governance.

"I tell the men of the village, all I want is your prayers," she told the BBC. "When you have a problem, I'll speak to the government on your behalf and whenever there is any disturbance at night-time, I'll pick up my gun and come to your house to see what's going on."

Her biggest achievement has been connecting Naw Abad to the electricity grid. To manage that, she traveled to the capital, Kabul, with her 4-year-old daughter and demanded to meet the power minister.

According to the BBC's Persian Service, village resident Moulavi Sayed Ahmad said that Qazizadah is capable of the kind of work that most men can't do.

"When something happens in the village at night and I have to react quickly, I'll put on men's clothes and ride my motorbike," she told the World Service. She even dons a fake mustache to avoid attracting too much attention.

Qazizadah, who has 36 grandchildren, has received 18 awards from the Afghan government for her work. Her next goal? The national parliament.

The reality of women in the Muslim world is often vastly different from the subservient portrayal favored by the mainstream media. Last week, we published a story about a woman in Saudi Arabia who stood up to the religious police or Mutawwa. Another story this month featured a Saudi Arabian girls school that was defying a religious ban on sports.

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