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Celebrating International Women's Day: From Kabul to Washington, DC

Afghan singer, entertainer and model Mozhdah Jamalzadah writes about her experience performing for the President, the First Lady and others as the White House celebrated International Women's Day.

In August 2009, I performed at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, DC in celebration of Afghan Independence Day.  At that event, I met Mr. Tim Nusraty, an Afghan-American who now works at the National Security Council at the White House.  Many months later, Mr. Nusraty recommended me to perform at the White House on March 8, 2010 for International Women’s Day.  When I learned that I was selected to perform, it was the second happiest day of my life.  The first was the day I met President Barack Obama and his beautiful wife First Lady Michelle Obama.  I have to say that meeting the President, the First Lady, and performing at the White House was surreal.  I never thought in a million years that this dream would come true.

As an Afghan girl born in Kabul, Afghanistan and raised in Vancouver, Canada, I have made it my duty to fight for women’s rights and to promote education in Afghanistan.  I decided that more than anything else, music would be the best way to do this.  It was a long-term goal, and it involved a lot of time, dedication, and hard work, not to mention the many obstacles I would have to face to get there.  I had never sung professionally in my life, and decided to start from scratch at the BC Conservatory of Music.  Today, my lyrics are heard by millions of people throughout Afghanistan and the region.

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The song that I sang at the White House on March 8th was composed by my father and me to remember the young Afghan girls who were doused with acid in Kandahar City last year for going to school.  The lyrics to the song are very powerful.  Below is the translation to the lyrics of the Afghan song:

Afghan Girl

I'm a girl, I am an Afghan girl
I'm the daughter of the land of braves
Don't break my wings, let me fly
Don't break my crown, let me think
I want to be as free as a gazelle
I love my homeland just as Malali did
Sing my songs just like a nightingale in the gardens
Express myself the same as Zainab, Nazo, and Mehri in poetry
Don't break my wings, let me fly
Don't break my crown, let me think
I've a smile on my face like a flower
And live in open green fields
My heart is filled with love for my homeland
I'll sing songs and poems for my land

Words can’t describe what I felt when I was standing in the East Room performing at the White House. I was so grateful.  I now believe that dreams can come true and goals can be reached.  My mother was with me during the performance and was more than lucky to sit next to the First Lady.  Halfway through my performance I noticed Mrs. Obama holding my mother’s hand and I was so happy I almost forgot my lyrics.  The First Lady is such an inspiration to women around the world, and I am thankful we have such an amazing role model.

Later that day after my performance, I was approached by Afghan media, and they all told me in great excitement that I had made history in Afghanistan and that never in the history of Afghanistan had there been a performance at the White House by an Afghan artist.  Even the Afghan journalists who interviewed me became very emotional.  I didn’t realize the impact my performance at the White House would have on my Afghan people.  Recently I was offered to host my own show on 1TV in Kabul, Afghanistan.  This show focuses on family matters, women’s issues, and the treatment of children. I jumped at the opportunity and moved back to Kabul.  1TV is the platform for me to spread awareness for the women of Afghanistan.

Thank you President Obama and Madame First Lady for this amazing opportunity. I would also like to thank Afghan Ambassador Jawad, Ms. Columbia Barrosse, and Mr. Nusraty.

Mozhdah Jamalzadah is an Afghan singer, entertainer and model from Kabul, Afghanistan