Afghanistan Counter Narcotics Police First Sergeant Malalai Bahaduri receives the International Women of Courage Award at the State Department March 8, 2013 in Washington, DC. In celebration of the 102nd International Women's Day, the State Department honored nine women from around the world with the International Women of Courage Award, including the 23-year-old Indian woman known only as 'Nirbhaya,' who died from injuries she received after being gang raped by six men last December in Delhi.
US First Lady Michelle Obama on Friday presented 2nd Lieutenant Malalai Bahaduri of Afghanistan with the prestigious International Women of Courage Award at a glittering function held at the State Department. “Not only has her persistence inspired other women to join the Narcotics Interdiction Unit, she is already halfway through a training program that will allow her to be promoted to an officer – and the first woman officer in her elite unit,” Kerry said amidst applause.
Before presenting the award, Michelle Obama said when these women witnessed horrific crimes or the disregard for basic human rights they spoke up, risking everything they had to see that justice was done.
First Sergeant Malalai Bahaduri’s story is one of hope and perseverance that began in the mid-1960’s. At the age of two, her parents moved the family from Wardak Province to Kabul. Despite living under a Soviet occupation followed by a repressive Taliban regime, she persevered and received an education through the 12th grade.
After Taliban’s regime was toppled, in 2002 First Sergeant Bahaduri, with the support of her husband, decided to leave her job as a telecommunications operator to pursue a career in law enforcement. A mother of three, she endured death threats and physical abuse at the hands of an uncle who broke her nose after learning of her career decision. Undeterred by his reaction, First Sergeant Bahaduri accepted the challenge.
First Sergeant Bahaduri’s dedication to achieve success, coupled with a powerful spirit to endure the criticisms from both her peers and her family, was eventually recognized when she was selected and became the first female member of the Afghan National Interdiction Unit (NIU). Despite her achievements, she continued to endure social bias and additional death threats to herself and her family. As an NIU instructor, she is committed to the professional development of the Counter Narcotics Police – Afghanistan (CNP-A). She plays an integral role in the Afghan effort to target the most significant drug trafficking networks, collect evidence, and arrest and prosecute drug traffickers in accordance with Afghan law. First Sergeant Bahaduri has developed a strong reputation for duty and excellence among the Afghan members of the NIU, as well as with her U.S. advisors and mentors.
Indeed ambitious when Sergeant Bahaduri dreamt of a time when women and men would be viewed as equals, when oppressive and archaic laws would be a thing of the past, and when women would be able to pursue whatever dreams they may possess.