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Leading Change: Featuring Angiza Nasiree

August 7, 2013 7 minute Read by Sara Van Wie

ABOUT THE LEADING CHANGE SERIES

Women in Afghanistan have experienced incredible progress over the last ten years, and the hard-won gains of the last decade must not be reversed. Girls have returned to school to become educated, like their brothers, and women are serving as provincial governors and members of the National Assembly.  Their stories inspire us, and remind us of what is at stake for Afghan women.
As part of the Women’s Initiative Afghan Women’s Project, we have launched a blog series that spotlights the success stories of courageous Afghan women and girls.  

ANGIZA NASIREE

Angiza Nasiree is a woman of many hats.  A diplomat, a student, a wife and a mom, she juggles tremendous responsibility with grace, determination and kindness.  She thinks deeply about the challenges facing her native Afghanistan, and aims to prove herself as a worthwhile leader among her colleagues.  Angiza’s life, work and story should inspire women, no matter their country of origin, to aim high and work with excellence to pursue their dreams.

LIFE AS AN AFGHAN DIPLOMAT

Although neither of her parents formally participated in Afghan politics, Angiza grew up in a household and community that regularly debated domestic and international affairs.  Angiza tells how her appetite to study law and participate in government continued to grow even through the severe restrictions on women and girls implemented under Taliban regime.  “Everyone in my family was somehow engaged in politics.  I wanted to study law, to know the rules and laws to bring change to Afghanistan,” she says.

During the five years of Taliban rule, Angiza met and married her husband and started a family in Kabul.  When the Taliban regime collapsed in 2001, Angiza returned to school to complete her secondary education.  With the support of her husband and family, she enrolled in Kabul University to complete her undergraduate degree in law and political science.  When doors opened to begin a career as a lawyer or to enter Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Angiza opted to pursue the diplomatic life.  “I wanted a career, a way of life, not just a job.  I wanted something special.”  She saw the opportunity to work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as one that would satisfy her desires to work in a busy, lively environment and to engage with foreign governments on important international issues. 

Angiza received her first international post at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C. in 2010, where she currently works in the Office of Social and Cultural Affairs.  Angiza serves as a bridge between Afghanistan and the U.S. government and non-government organizations working to tackle the challenges facing women in Afghanistan.  Representing Afghanistan at such a critical moment in the nation’s history (and in U.S.-Afghan relations) has been both an honor and incredible challenge for Angiza. 

She speaks proudly of the gains that Afghan women have made in just over a decade: 40 percent of students in schools in Afghanistan are girls, 25 percent of government employees are women, and 27 percent of Parliamentary seats are held by female representatives.  She emphasizes the important partnership of the United States and other international partners in advancing women’s rights in Afghanistan.  “The United States has been a supportive, close friend of Afghanistan so far, especially when it comes to women.” 

DIPLOMAT, STUDENT, WIFE and MOTHER

Angiza’s commitment to women’s empowerment in Afghanistan is not merely a professional pursuit; it is also a personal one.  While posted in the United States, Angiza also pursued a masters’ degree in international legal studies from American University, where she concentrated in human rights and gender issues.  “As an Afghan woman and mom, I have a lot of hopes and wishes for my daughter.  I know that so many [people] have these kinds of wishes for their sisters and their daughters.  I want and will use my experiences and knowledge that I gained here during my studies at American University and also during my work on the issues of gender and human rights [at the Embassy].  I want to enhance and improve the situation of women in Afghanistan.” 

Like many professional women worldwide, Angiza understands the difficulty of juggling the demands of a career and a family.  Angiza recognizes the importance of her family in her professional success. “Although it is difficult to be a mom and have a successful career, I have found it easier [not only] because of my dedication to my work and family, [but also] because I have such a supportive family, and my husband has helped me.”  During her three years in the United States, her husband has remained at home with their children while she works and attends school in the evening.

With her family’s support, Angiza has been able to boldly break through barriers and limitations often placed on women in Afghanistan.  “Yes, there are barriers within Afghan society that I have faced, but you have to fight with it.  When people know, ‘No, this is not the person who will back down; she wants to go ahead,’ then they will support you.”  She speaks highly of her colleagues within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who have encouraged her in the midst of her work, school and family responsibilities.  “They have been very supportive of me.  For instance, when I was studying for my master’s degree, they encouraged me.  They always said, ‘Please do it. Don’t be disappointed. You can do it.’”

RETURNING HOME

Angiza will finish her three-year assignment in the United States this fall, just before the birth of her third child.  She looks forward to returning home to Kabul, and to starting her next assignment in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  She is confident, knowing that her work has provided her opportunities to gain new skills and grow in her career.  “I am very proud to be a diplomat from Afghanistan, especially a woman diplomat from Afghanistan,” she says.  “This is my first diplomatic mission in the United States, and I have been very busy in this three years.  I work, I have my family and I have my master’s studies at night.  I am happy and proud that whatever was given to me I did it and I accomplished it.  I am so proud of that.”
 

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