Centering Women: Negotiating Peace in Afghanistan



In collaboration with Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML), the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism (CHRLP) presents a seminar in a series on Women's Rights in Afghanistan. The event will take place at


  • Shukria Barakzai, former Member of the Wolesi Jirga, lower house the National Assembly of Afghanistan
  • Her Excellency Roya Rahmani, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the US
  • Dr. Sima Samar, women’s rights and human rights advocate

With remarks by Professor Homa Hoodfar (Concordia), and moderated by Professor Vrinda Narain (McGill Law).

Shukria Barakzai was born and raised in Kabul. She is from an educated Pashtun family. Her higher studies were paused until after the fall of the Taliban, and in 2003, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Archaeology and Geology from Kabul University. Shukria Barakzai was a member of the Wolesi Jirga. Barakzai has had many professions in her life, including teacher, journalist, editor and head of NGO’s. In 2003, she started her political career when she was appointed to the Loya Jirga to pass the new constitution. In 2004, Barakzai was elected to the lower house of the Wolesi Jirga, the National Assembly of Afghanistan. She served until she was appointed by President Ashraf Ghani as Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Norway in late November 2015. Adamant on women’s rights, she used her position as Member of Parliament to bring light to certain issues concerning the rights of women. For example, after her husband, Abdul Ghafoor Dawi, took a second wife, she began campaigning against polygamy, trying to encourage women not to become someone’s second wife.

HE Roya Rahmani is Afghanistan’s first female ambassador to the United States of America. She is also non-resident Ambassador to Argentina, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia. Previously, she served as Afghanistan’s first female ambassador to Indonesia and was the country’s first accredited ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission awarded Rahmani the Best Human Rights Activist Award in 2010, and Indonesia Tatler named her the People’s Ambassador in 2017. In 2019, she was featured on TIME Magazine’s “100 Next List” as a “fierce advocate of peace on Afghan terms.” She has a Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering from McGill University, and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Columbia University. She is the mother of a young daughter, and often speaks passionately about  the importance of bringing women and youth into the democratic process.

A Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Dr. Sima Samar is a renowned human rights advocate and an identified global influential female figure who has dedicated her life to public service, humanitarian work and women’s empowerment. Since 2002, she has been the Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), which holds human rights violators accountable and sets the human rights agenda in Afghanistan. Alongside this, Dr. Samar chairs the Commission for the Prevention of Torture, and was the Chairperson of Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF). Prior to her appointment as the chair of AIHRC, she was the Vice President of the Interim Administration of Afghanistan and the first Minister of Women’s Affairs. Dr. Samar served as the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan between 2005 and 2009 and has newly been appointed as a member of the United Nation’s Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation. Her Shuhada Organization NGO operates 55 middle and high schools for girls and boys in Afghanistan, and three schools in Quetta, Pakistan, for Afghan refugees.



Back to top