Even though her life was cruelly cut short on Sept. 24, former City Council member Rosemary Stasek accomplished more during her few years in Mountain View and Kabul, Afghanistan than most of us do in a lifetime.
She was a courageous council member who dedicated herself to getting the complex and unpopular measures passed, rather than skate by on the easy issues. For example, she worked tirelessly to develop an ordinance to preserve the city's historic buildings. Although that effort was not successful, she did convince her colleagues to extend benefits to domestic partners of city workers, and to hire the first female firefighters.
As one friend told the Voice, "She was not a friend to anyone who discriminated. She stuck to her principles even if it hurt her politically and financially."
Stasek was considered a hip council member — she wore a stud in her nose and enjoyed the night life in San Francisco — and was called a "rebel with a cause." She was also a brilliant politician and strategist "who found solutions where there seemed to be none," said council member Laura Macias, a longtime friend.
After her two council terms, which ended in 2004, Stasek made an unsuccessful run for a state Assembly seat, taking on her former colleague Sally Lieber, who won the race. After that Stasek looked for other challenges and wound up moving to Kabul in 2005 (she had previously visited Afghanistan on vacation).
There she saw an opportunity to improve the lives of the thousands of women smothered by the repressive Taliban regime. Her first effort, which she wrote about in dispatches published in the Voice, centered around the Kabul Beauty School, an institution that gave young women the skills they needed to start their own beauty salons, thereby earning their own income.
In Kabul, Stasek refused to bow to the prevailing culture of men keeping women out of public life and the business community. She was one of the few women in Kabul to drive a car, which she said drew intimidating verbal comments from men an average of six times a day. But she did not take these affronts lying down. At one point, for instance, she collected a debt owed to her while carrying a Kalashnikov rifle.
After her stint at the beauty school, Stasek used her newfound fundraising and networking skills to bring aid to maternity hospitals and improve terrible conditions in a women's prison, which housed many young women who had run away from arranged marriages.
Despite her absence of nearly four years, Rosemary Stasek had many good friends in Mountain View who recognized her incredible energy and ability to improve the lives of those around her. Although her unexpected death was a huge loss to those who knew her in Afghanistan as well as in Mountain View, all of us will remember her work to fight discrimination at every turn, and to never let up. That is how she would want to be remembered.