H.E. Roya Rahmani

Afghan Ambassador to the United States

Roya Rahmani is an Afghan diplomat and the first woman to serve as Afghan ambassador to the United States of America. She is also non-resident ambassador to Argentina, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia. She has served in these roles since December 2018.

Rahmani was born in Kabul in 1978, a year before the Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan. She spent her early years there before her family fled to Pakistan in 1993 to escape the civil war. Rahmani’s experiences as a refugee led to her lifelong motto of “doing the best with what you have.”

In 1999, Rahmani was awarded a World University Service of Canada scholarship to McGill University, where she completed a bachelor’s degree in software engineering. After working as an engineer for a year, she felt compelled to return to Afghanistan to seize the opportunity to contribute to peacebuilding and development through promoting human rights, legal reform, and women’s empowerment. She worked for non-profit organizations, the Department of Trade and International Affairs of Canada, Women Living under Muslim Laws, and other INGOs. In 2007, Rahmani was awarded the Best Human Rights Activist Award by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission for her work on a marriage document that secured equitable rights for the family and contributed to data collection at a national level.

Rahmani’s nonprofit work led her to believe that working within the government would be the most effective way to achieve the large-scale changes necessary to build a peaceful and prosperous nation, and she was inspired to change her career focus to public service. With this goal in mind, she returned to university as a Fulbright scholar, completing a master’s degree in public administration and international law at Columbia University in 2009. While at Columbia University, she worked as a consultant to the New York Department of Education and the United Nations Secretariat. After graduation, she continued working as a consultant to INGOs and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education, as well as a part-time subject matter expert at the NATO Joint Forces Training Center.

Rahmani joined the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Senior Advisor to the Deputy Foreign Minister in 2011. In 2012, she was appointed as the first Director General of the Regional Cooperation Directorate. For five years, she represented Afghanistan in multiple regional platforms, led the negotiation process for regional agreements and declarations, developed and spearheaded regional cooperation initiatives, and was one of the main architects and the trailblazer of the Heart of Asia Process.

In 2016, Rahmani was appointed as the first Afghan woman to serve as ambassador to Indonesia, non-resident ambassador to Singapore, and first ever ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. During her tenure, she helped develop the relationship between Afghanistan and Indonesia to an unprecedented level by engaging the Indonesian government and civil society in Afghanistan’s peace process and collaborating in a variety of areas including economic development. Her work in Indonesia led her to be named “The People’s Ambassador” in 2017 by Indonesia Tatler.

She has been featured in many prominent media outlets, including The New York Times, NPR, The Diplomat, The Jakarta Post, and others. In 2019, she was featured on TIME Magazine’s “100 Next List” as a “fierce advocate of peace on Afghan terms.” During her time as an ambassador, she has received many awards and recognitions, including being honored by the Alliance for Peacebuilding for her efforts to create an inclusive peace process.

Rahmani has served as a board member for many different organizations. She is a Musawah Advocate, a member of the Munich Security Conference Young Leaders, and a Salzburg Global Seminar Fellow. She is the mother of a young daughter and often speaks passionately about the importance of equality and inclusivity for sustainable peace and progress.

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