Before I plunge into what I want to share from my class with Mahgul last week, I’d like to start by offering some context. Right now, in India, a range of events, both political and social, have created fractured segments of divided opinions. In some instances, people who disagree do so respectfully, and don’t have a personal dimension to their dissent to the ideas of someone they are close to. In a majority of instances, dissent has taken a personal turn – almost to the point of mudslinging and insulting the other’s intellect for professing an opinion.

In my last session with Mahgul, relying on weak internet at a hotel room in Bangalore, I had a very insightful and powerful exchange. We should have been doing our reading, but slow internet at Mahgul’s end refused to let her download the file. We shifted to a speaking lesson, and I heard a few voices behind her. Mahgul told me that her sister Hosi and her friend Salma were with her, and I asked if she’d be up to engaging in a debate with them. Since Hosi was busy with sending out an email, Salma piped up and got onto the debate. I asked the both of them to pick a side on the topic “A woman leader will be the most effective for the future of Afghanistan.” Salma picked for, and Mahgul chose against.

I chatted with Hosi in the two minutes that Mahgul and Salma took to prepare for their speech. She was an eloquent young woman with a very powerful sense of articulation. She asked me what I thought of the people of Afghanistan, and I told her without sparing a moment that I had the greatest respect and love for them, and I had never met more peaceloving people than my friends from Afghanistan. She laughed a beautiful laugh of joy and mirth – and told me that she hoped for this from more people.

Mahgul and Salma came on, next, and Salma went first with her debate. In a nutshell, she told me that a woman leader would be very effective for Afghanistan – if a woman could manage a household, run it on limited money, deal with challenges and demands of divergent opinions, nothing could stop her from running the show as the leader of a nation, and she especially added that a woman could bring peace sooner than a man could, and could get things done sooner than a man could. Mahgul came on next – and said that her choice of going against the motion had more to do with the surrounding climate than with the inherent capacity of a woman. She said that a woman makes a fantastic leader – but in a country where a woman is mandated to cover herself and stay away from strange men, being a leader would put her right in the line of fire before strangers, and in pursuit of protecting herself from her vulnerability, a woman might be distracted from the chores of leadership and its many rigours. She also said that Islam required a woman to be veiled. Salma came on again and said that a woman is not bound to veil herself completely by Islam, and that one should give it a clearer interpretation. Even if she is, she can still interact with other people with herself veiled. Nothing stops a woman from being an effective leader. Mahgul then came on and said that she agreed with Salma, but also said that it can’t always be the case with everyone – those women who can take on the challenge and are willing to, are going to be effective leaders thanks to their courage.

I was awed at their dignity in the exchange. Not for a moment did either get personal. Though Salma and Mahgul both relied on religious tenets, there wasn’t a moment when one questioned the other’s perception of a common faith or dubbed it dubious. Finally, when Mahgul agreed with Salma, I asked her how she chose to agree on one point, though it was a debate. She left me with a very important message: “It is good to agree on what is agreeable, but it is important to be respectful about disagreeing.”

Categories: Peace Advocacy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts

Peace Advocacy

Learning has never been so wonderful

By Mrs Tinku R Gupta Learning had never been so wonderful until I started tutoring students at Pax Populi Academy. For years, my domain of interest has been Afghanistan. It has been amazing to meet Read more…

Peace Advocacy

My  experience with  Pax Populi

By Manizha Yaqubi The experience that I had during my course with my tutor from India, Tinku ji, was one of the best experiences of my life. First, I never felt like I didn’t know Read more…

Peace Advocacy

World Youth Day

We asked our amazing team of tutors and tutees what they thought of their work and role in shaping the future, and what their dreams are for the future. Here’s what we had! Eisha Sarkar, Read more…