Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani: "Afghanistan Is Starting To Be A Good Place For Women"


Rula, wife of Afghan President Ashraf, Ghani is an American citizen, born in Lebanon and and a Lebanese Christian. They met at the American University of Beirut in the 1970s and have two adult American children.

RULA GHANI, FIRST LADY OF AFGHANISTAN: It's no longer a place you can say, oh, what a pity this girl was born in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is starting to be a good place for a woman to be.

WALLACE: If that's true, Rula Ghani is part of the reason. She's the wife of Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani.

RULA GHANI: There are a lot of very strong women.

WALLACE: And the country's first visibly public first lady in almost a century...

How challenging a role is that?

RULA GHANI: Yes, it's true. It's uncharted waters. But because they are uncharted, I can try a lot of things.

WALLACE: We met Ghani last month when she visited the U.S. on her own. At one stop, she introduced Laura Bush, a champion of women's rights in Afghanistan. She could have been describing herself.

RULA GHANI: She's resourceful. She gets things done.

WALLACE: Ghani has her own office and the staff of six in the presidential palace. She meets delegations, mostly of women, and says she's a facilitator, working within what she calls existing structures to help women carve out better lives.

RULA GHANI: I dress properly. I talk properly. I don't make ...

WALLACE: Ghani met her husband in the early '70s at the American University in Beirut. They moved to New York, but between the Soviet invasion and then the Taliban, they couldn't return to Afghanistan for more than 20 years.

RULA GHANI: You take what's thrown at you and you make a life out of it.

WALLACE: During last year's bitter presidential campaign, she became an issue. Attacked for being a Lebanese Christian with U.S. citizenship...

Is that painful for you when critics of your husband use you to try to hurt him?

RULA GHANI: It was sad that I didn't know the language. I spoke it in front of them for an hour. It was sad that I didn't know anything about Afghanistan. And I spoke about Afghan issues.

ASHRAF GHANI: [speaking in foreign language]

WALLACE: In his inaugural address, her husband made news singling out his partner for helping Afghan women.

RULA GHANI: It was very moving. He almost choked when he said this. And I felt like choking, too.

WALLACE: Life for women in Afghanistan is improving. They can travel without a man from their family. There are more opportunities for education and work. They make up 28 percent of the parliament.

WALLACE: But, there is a threat...

What will happen to women in Afghanistan if the Taliban were to regain power?

RULA GHANI: I don't think it's in the cards. I don't think the Taliban are coming back.

WALLACE: And so, she will do what she can as first lady.

RULA GHANI: I don't think I have magical powers. I will be very happy if at the end of the five-year mandate women are better appreciated and more respected for what they are.

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