Manizha Wafeq returned to Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2002 when her parents were called back from exile in Pakistan. When you have gone so long with so little and find it difficult to do simple functions on a day-to-day basis, selfishness and greed can easily set in. Living in fear and under dogmatic rule tends to create suspicion and anxiety. As doctors, the elder Wafeqs’ skills were desperately needed to help rebuild after the Taliban had been ousted from power. Together, the entire Wafeq clan pitched in with an intention to build a better life for themselves and, true to nature, for everyone else in Afghanistan. Dr. Sanaullah Wafeq taught his seven children to live in love and have compassion no matter how the other person reacted. Bold and full of ideas, the elder Wafeq children followed their father’s guidance and set to work providing services and starting businesses that brought Afghans together.
For Manizha, a born entrepreneur who, from her early teens, vowed to be a businesswoman at a time when women were hidden behind closed doors, pitching in for family and community meant higher education and starting a business. She kept herself busy and diversified by working for an international development agency and starting her own consulting firm, all while attending University and coaching her older sister on how to run her business. In Afghanistan, Manizha and her sisters were setting the new precedent that would help to rebuild Kabul – a dusty, dilapidated shell of a place – transforming it into the bustling, international city it is today.
While at University in 2008, Manizha met a young man who exemplified the love and support her father had instilled in the family. Wahab A’dil was a classmate at Kardan University and he was progressive. Not only was Manizha busy with her many jobs, in 2007 she attended the inaugural PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® course on the campus of Northwood University in Midland, MI; the next year, passionate about the mission, she became facilitator for Afghanistan. Additionally, she had opened a small clothing factory and boutique shop with her artistic sister, Sania.
Wahab and Manizha married in 2011. Manizha says of Wahab, “he has been a great partner, very gender sensitive and very courageous to break gender stereotypes.” Showing his understanding of his bride-to-be, Wahab assured Manizha that he expected her to continue her professional work and reach for the goals she had set. He emphasized, “in 5 or 10 years from now, I don’t want you to look back and say, ‘oh, you couldn’t do this or achieve that, because you married me’.” Wahab has been Manizha’s rock, ensuring that their life together remains as he promised the day they married. He supports her everyday work and accomplishments, but moreover, he enjoys her drive, respects her independence, appreciates her competency and deep sense of responsibility for family, friends, and indeed, for the world at large.
Wahab is knowledgeable about gender concepts, so when it comes to critical conversations on lifestyle, Manizha says, “he handles them with his knowledge and strong arguments that have resulted in many traditional men being influenced. They see the success of his relationship, listen to his advice, ponder it, and eventually transform their own lifestyle.” Manizha and Wahab participated in TedX Kabul several years ago. After becoming parents in 2014, they decided to share their experience and ideas on how to bring up strong, powerful girls and responsible sons in Afghanistan. They believe it is critical to change the old habits of using stereotypical terminology for girls and boys that can affect their entire life. They wanted society to see the benefits from the change – both women and men.
Like all relationships, there is much give and take. Expectations should be expected, yet simultaneously, we need to let go of expectations. When uplifting every woman in Afghanistan is your benchmark, finding time for family can sometimes prove difficult. On living together, Manizha says of Wahab, ‘Foremost, I respect his patience. I am not an easy person to live with. Second, I respect his ability to live in the present, whereas, I am always in the future intensely planning. He brings balance to our daily life. And third, I respect his humanity and kindness. He will stop his car in the middle of a snowstorm to help someone put chains on the vehicle’s tires or he will push the car if it is stopped. He arranges watching movies or eating outside when things become a little chaotic.”
What is seen from afar and what has been true over time depends on perspective. Manizha concedes that “altogether, it is an extremely tense situation in Afghanistan, but there is always a string of hope. My expectation is not based on patriotism but on the basis of practical things working. Despite bumps in the road, I see Afghanistan better than what it used to be. For two decades, every day has brought about improvement.” For the Wafeqs and the A’dils, the future of Afghanistan as seen through Manizha’s eyes is coming to fruition. Instead of losing hope, she has learned through her partner to see and work toward betterment day by day. This has kept her going through every bomb explosion, through every denouncement of democracy or inclusion, and through every withering of support.
Likewise, Wahab is looking to the future of Afghanistan for his own daughter, Tasnim, by letting her live the day to day reality. His candid response, “Tasnim needs to grow up in a humane society. But she also needs to learn the resilience required to be inside Afghanistan. Let us fast forward to the future and assume that we have gone past all the turmoil. Afghanistan will need a new generation of Afghans to build it brick by brick. That is where Tasnim steps in and that is where she needs to be. To not have a worrisome and unsafe Afghanistan, but a blank slate ready to be painted by the efforts of the ones who have learned from the past and would not know any other way but to show goodwill and compassion for their country.”