She ached from the loss of her husband and decided she couldn't remarry. She could, however, marry politics. When parliamentary elections were announced, and women were allowed to run, her relatives debated the idea that she put her name on the ballot.
She reasoned that she had solid networks from her United Nations work, and she had outreach and support in far-flung displacement camps and villages. Her family name still carried some political weight. She went for it, campaigning as she does today, without wearing a burqa.
The Taliban's 'conditions' for women
Koofi believes that in the years since her win in 2005 to her current campaign, life for women in Afghanistan has improved to a degree. There are statistics and reports that support this. In 2004, girls were formally guaranteed a right to an education under the Afghan constitution. Human Rights Watch reported in 2010 that nearly 2 million Afghan girls were enrolled in school (though only a small number advance past elementary school, rights groups have reported).
Literacy rates are up for girls between 12 and 16, according to a 2011 Oxfam report. Across Afghanistan, infant mortality rates have dropped and life expectancy has risen, according to Unicef. Women who once had to quit their jobs have gone back to work as doctors, lawyers and police officers, Oxfam reports.
But stories of honor killings, poisoned wells at schools for girls and attacks that disfigure women persist. Human Rights Watch reported in March that women are still being targeted for committing "moral crimes" like sex outside marriage or running away from home.
Koofi said she fears what will happen if the Taliban regains their political footing as a result of ongoing negotiation with the United States intended to stabilize the country.
"You know that [the] Taliban have three conditions -- one of those conditions is women's Islamic rights. I know what that means -- Islamic rights of women. ..." she said. "They deprive women from all rights, including the right to [an] education."
The Taliban must change "some of its core principles" and agree that girls can go to school, work and be involved in politics. If they "come back with the same mentality," Koofi said, "this will be a huge step back for all women, for all citizens."
"Our daughters are like the hope, the future of Afghanistan," she said. "I think women have to stand up, they have to raise their voice, demonstrate that they have equal abilities in this country like many other people have."
Her first day in her new job as a lawmaker was the first time Koofi had been inside Afghanistan's parliament building. On her second day, she put her name in for deputy speaker. She knew her chances were slim. Several male members of Parliament practically sneered at her. It was an audacious move. But she made it because she was emboldened by her then 6-year-old daughter, Shuhra.
Do you think I should try? Koofi asked her.
The little girl promised she'd gather 100 schoolchildren and come down to Parliament and wave flags so that her mom would win.
Days later, Koofi was elected deputy speaker.
It was an international news event. She felt fantastic, but also like a novelty. She was besieged by expectations. Journalists descended on her. How was she going to fix Afghanistan?
She started with victories that would seem small in the United States but huge in Afghanistan -- getting funding to build a highway, raising awareness about getting girls in school and pushing for women in higher education. She has met with international heavyweights like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and, now in her second parliamentary term, Koofi talked with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She has received praise internationally for championing women's rights, and spoken at the World Economic Forum.
Yet, could she really win the presidency in Afghanistan, beating the United States at electing a woman as its top leader?
"I don't think any candidate will actually run to lose. I don't run to lose."
"Leaders in Afghanistan, once they get elected they don't go back to their community and ask about social problems," she said. "I did. That gives me confidence, esteem, that people will not compare me with other candidates."
She's sure that villagers in provinces who she worked with during her Unicef days will remember her and support her campaign, she said.
When asked if she has any regrets, she pauses. She could have done more in that job, she said.
"I could have mobilized more donors to establish more girls schools in my village or other villages in Badakhshan."
The girls who attended schools she did open have always been her biggest supporters, like her daughters.