Niloofar Rahmani: Flying High for Feminism in the Middle East

December 9 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: These Boots Were Made for Stomping

Today’s On the Dot is going to give you the energy to go out there and kick some butt. Think of it as a shot of espresso or that feeling you get when rushing into a store on Black Friday.

What I’ve learned by talking with readers and listeners is that by hearing women’s stories of adversity and their ability to not only cope but actually conquer gives you a sense that you too can accomplish just about anything. If you’ve been waiting to take action on something for fear of stepping on someone else’s toes, delay no longer. Today is the day to get your stomping boots on and hit the ground.


A woman in her 20s completed a marathon last year. No big deal, right? Women do that all the time. Except that it is a really, really big deal. When Zainab finished her marathon, she became the first woman in the country of Afghanistan to ever do so.

Sadly, many believe women are incapable of this kind of athleticism, and she faced a barrage of violent threats. In fact, during her award ceremony, even the governor of the province noted that she surely would’ve been killed for running a marathon in other parts of the country. A real trailblazer, she now works with the nonprofit organization Free to Run to empower and educate women and girls through physical fitness and outdoor adventure.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Captain Niloofar Rahmani, Pilot in the Afghan Air Force

If that didn’t empower you enough, give a good listen to today’s story about Captain Niloofar Rahmani, the first woman to become a fixed-wing Afghan Air Force pilot in the entire history of Afghanistan.

Niloofar always wanted to be a pilot, a tough sell, given her country’s often suffocating approach to women. Though she longed to be a commercial pilot, Afghanistan doesn’t have any civilian aviation, so the military seemed like the next best thing. And when she was only 18 years old, emboldened by a media announcement she heard about the recruitment of women into the Afghan Air Force, she jumped at her chance.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of the State granted Niloofar the 2015 International Women of Courage Award for advocating for women’s equality, despite the risks that come with such an endeavor. And believe me, there are risks.

Niloofar’s story isn’t all sky high. There are some real lows too. As a pilot, she would fly cargo planes used to transport dead and wounded soldiers and bring supplies to conflict zones, an act that’s traditionally forbidden for women in Afghanistan. When news broke about Niloofar’s accomplishments and defiance, the Taliban threatened her and her family, which forced her family to uproot and move multiple times.

But Niloofar is determined to inspire other women to follow in her footsteps. Like the skies she soars through, her courage has no limits. We at On The Dot are thankful for women like Niloofar who are forging through some remarkably tough and scary stuff to make our world a more equal place.


With Niloofar Rahmani in mind, today’s powerful quote comes from Pakistani writer and feminist Fahmida Riaz, who said:

“What feminism means for me is simply that women, like men, are complete human beings with limitless possibilities.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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