Rula Ghani (2)

First Lady of Afghanistan


§ STORY SUBJECT: What role in society should wives play when their husbands are the president of a country?

     “I would like to give women out there the courage and the possibility to do something about improving their lives.” —Rula Ghani

RULA GHANI is the “First Lady” [wife] of Ashraf Ghani, the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.  The exact name of their country is important because Islam, the religion of Muslims, is the only legal religion in Afghanistan. But Mrs. Ghani, from her childhood, is a Christian.  She was born in Lebanon and not Afghanistan, but now she is a citizen of Afghanistan. In Afghanistan she uses the name Bibi Gul and not Rula.

     There is no law in the Muslim’s holy book, the Koran, that says a Muslim man must marry a Muslim woman.  But some people in Afghanistan are not happy, and are even afraid, of a First Lady who is not Muslim.  Maybe this shows that the traditions of a country are very, very important to people and cannot be changed easily. Because of this, for a long time Mrs. Ghani has worked hard to show her love for Afghanistan and her respect for the people and their traditions.  Recently she said, “My husband stands on his own two feet; my religion is not a factor. . . .” 

     Q.  Religion is an important part of people’s lives. Today our world is “getting smaller”.  In order for governments, businesses, or groups studying the environment and sciences to progress, people from different cultures must work together and live in each other’s countries.  And so, take a moment now to think about these 2 questions. What are the challenges [problems] of having many different religions in one country?  What are the strengths [things that make something strong] of having many different religions in one country?  


THE day President Ghani became president, he asked the Afghan people to remember that, in the past, other first ladies were active in society and did good things. For example, in the early 1920s, First Lady, Queen Soraya opened the first Afghan school for girls. President Ghani then said this: “I want to take this opportunity to thank my partner and wife for her support of me and Afghanistan. She has always helped IDPs [internally displaced people], women and children, and I am sure that she will continue to do so.”  

     Q.  Why do you think President Ghani talked about his wife in his first speech as president?  Look at the words he used when he talked about Mrs. Ghani. What words are important to you? 

MRS. Ghani is a role model for women in Afghanistan. For example, for many years she has worked for an Afghan organization that helps feed and educate children living on the streets. Here’s another example. On March 8, 2014, Mrs. Ghani gave a talk at the International Women’s Day celebration in Kabul. It was a very natural thing for her to do because she has lived all over the world—in Lebanon, France, America and Afghanistan.  She also speaks 4 languages: Dari, Arabic, French and English.

    Q.  What is a role model?  What role models do you have? 

WHEN Bibi Gul first married her husband and moved to Afghanistan, girls were able to go to school and find jobs if they wanted to work. In fact, education for everyone was very strong. But during the years when the Ghanis lived in America, education for girls and women in Afghanistan, and work outside the home, became illegal [against the law]. Today, Afghanistan is again in a time of change.  Some men still believe that it isn’t right for women to be seen outside the home. They think it’s not right for women to have a role in society.  Mrs. Ghani said that, as First Lady, she hopes her life and example will help men in Afghanistan have more respect for women.  She hopes more men will see that when women have the same opportunities as men, they will make men’s lives better, not worse.   

     Q.  What makes men afraid of having educated women and taking part in society?  What should Mrs. Ghani do to help remove those fears? 

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