Afghan women: fighting with hope

Past event Livestream

Zarifa Ghafari


Since seizing control of Kabul and returning to power in Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban have imposed the most comprehensive restrictions on women’s rights as part of a sequence of increasingly aggressive measures to enforce conservatism. Women and girls are now deprived of access to education, employment, public spaces and other fundamental liberties. The Taliban’s ban on girls attending school has now lasted for over 530 days, and their recent prohibition on women attending university has been in place for 70 days.

Marking International Women’s Day, this #CriticalThinkingLive discussion between Friends of Europe’s Dharmendra Kanani and  Zarifa Ghafari, Founder of Assistance and Promotion for Afghan Women (APAW) and former mayor of Maidan Shahr, focuses on the vital role that women play in Afghanistan to promote gender equality and human rights in a country that has been marred by conflict and instability.

This #CriticalThinkingLive aims to raise awareness about the importance of women’s empowerment, the need for continued support for Afghan women and the impact of the Taliban’s rule on women’s lives. Ghafari shares insights on how the international community can support Afghan women and protect their rights. Despite facing death threats and assassination attempts, Ghafari remains committed to serving her community and advocating for women’s rights in Afghanistan. Sharing her journey of breaking barriers and making history, Ghafari discusses] her experiences as a trailblazing leader and offer insights on overcoming obstacles and creating change in challenging environments.

#CriticalThinkingLive is the latest expansion in our #CriticalThinking family, bringing influential voices from across a range of sectors to challenge, inspire and influence current thinking on the biggest issues facing Europe and the world.

This event is available to a wider audience via livestream. Follow us on TwitterLinkedInInstagram or Facebook, and join the #CriticalThinkingLive discussion!


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Afghan women: fighting with hope
Expand Afghan women: fighting with hope

Key questions include:

  • On International Women’s Day, what messages of hope can be broadcast to those who face challenges and barriers to access to human rights in their own countries?
  • What strategies have been useful in ensuring access to education for girls and women, and what would be the ideal steps towards scaling these effective strategies?
  • How can the global community better support the efforts of grassroots leaders who are working to create positive change in their communities?
End of #CriticalThinkingLive discussion


Dharmendra Kanani
Dharmendra Kanani

Chief Operating Officer and Chief Spokesperson of Friends of Europe

Show more information on Dharmendra Kanani

Prior to joining Friends of Europe, Dharmendra Kanani was director of policy at the European Foundation Centre (EFC). He was the England director at the Big Lottery Fund, the largest independent funder in the UK and fourth largest in the world. Dharmendra has held senior positions in the public and voluntary sector and advisor to numerous ministerial policy initiatives across the UK.

Zarifa Ghafari
Zarifa Ghafari

Former mayor of Maidan Shahr and Founder of Assistance and Promotion for Afghan Women Organisation (APAW)

Show more information on Zarifa Ghafari

Zarifa Ghafari is an Afghan human rights activist, politician and entrepreneur. Appointed mayor of Maidan Shahr at the age of 26, she became the youngest mayor and one of the first female mayors in Afghan history. Known for her efforts to advance women’s rights in Afghanistan, Ghafari is regarded as a role model to women in her country. When the Taliban took over the Afghanistan government in August 2021, she fled with her family to Germany. Today, Ghafari hopes to raise the unspoken voice of Afghan women throughout the international community to fight for women’s rights in Afghanistan.


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