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Afghan author speaks to members of Mercy HS community, Girl Scouts, Junior League

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Joya recounts in strong, uncompromising language her march to activism.

Meredith Bower, Baltimore Private Schools Examiner, November 4, 2009

Malalai Joya Malalai Joya signs a copy of her book for Mercy student Sara Lindstrom

In the United States, it's not uncommon for women to be elected to positions of power. In fact, women occupy the top three positions in Baltimore City's government. However, a world away, in Afghanistan, freedom for females is a dream.

So, it was an unusual experience for women and girls from the Baltimore area to have the opportunity to hear a talk by Malalai Joya, known to some as the “bravest woman in Afghanistan.”

The Girl Scouts of Central Maryland, the Junior League of Baltimore and Mercy High School sponsored the talk, which drew a standing-room-only crowd. Promoting social responsibility and social justice, especially for marginalized women and children, are values held in common by the three organizations.

Joya, one of the few and youngest women to win a seat in the Afghan Parliament, secretly fled her country after being physically removed from an Afghan legislative session where she publicly denounced the war lords and the drug lords whom she says are now part of Afghanistan’s government. Defying death threats and enduring separation from her family, she speaks passionately about the plight of the Afghan people, particularly women and children.

Her story and the complicated political situation in Afghanistan are chronicled in her most recent book A Woman Among Warlords, released in October. Joya recounts in strong, uncompromising language her march to activism, from her humble origins to recognizing a burning need to bring the corrupted leaders to justice in her war-torn country. Joya, now 31, is an outspoken critic of the Karzai government and NATO occupation.

She says, "In Afghanistan, democratic-minded people have been struggling for human and women's rights for decades. Our history proves that these values cannot be imposed by foreign troops. As I never tire of telling my audiences, no nation can donate liberation to another nation. These values must be fought for and won by the people themselves. They can only grow and flourish when they are planted by the people in their own soil and watered by their own blood and tears."

For teachers, students and alumnae of Mercy High School, as well as other audience members, the November 3rd talk was a rare opportunity to hear and meet someone of Joya’s stature.