News / Asia

Through Writing, Afghan Women Find Freedom

Hidden beneath their burqas, Afghan women are often viewed as forced to remain silent. The Afghan Women’s Writing Project, founded three years ago, is giving them a voice. (awwproject.org)
Hidden beneath their burqas, Afghan women are often viewed as forced to remain silent. The Afghan Women’s Writing Project, founded three years ago, is giving them a voice. (awwproject.org)
Faiza Elmasry
In the virtual space created by The Afghan Women’s Writing Project ( AWWP), women have the freedom to write about whatever they want and they can receive mentoring by a volunteer team of teachers and authors.

Daughter of War
by Zahra A.
http://awwproject.org/2012/05/daughter-of-war/

I am a daughter of war.
When I was born,
The war was going on.
The sky was dark.
The houses were broken.
The weather was dusty.
The trees were seared.
There was no plant,
No awake human,
No tears in the eyes left.
The streets were covered
By dead human bodies;
The blood was like a river
In the street, house and everywhere.
I didn’t consider failure.
I was full of hope;
I could see
Green places, a blue sky,
Smiles on everyone’s face, tall buildings,
A book in my hand,
Sitting under the tree,
Studying with my parents and siblings,
In my dreams.
But
War never gave this chance.
War took my parents from us.
War took my book
And gave me burqa;
They put me in the jail of burqa.
War forbade me from going outside.
War changed my beautiful land
To the worst place in the world.
War changed our smiles to tears.
War made our dreams
Of going to school,
Freedom of speech,
To be just a dream...


Legitimizing Inequality
by Mahnaz
http://awwproject.org/2012/11/legitimizing-inequality

We were cooked.
They made us raw,
burned us and buried us. Those
men and women who carry the
stick in their hands,
gaze of blame in their eyes,
sting of insult from their tongues, they
set fire to our wisdom, then
called us ignorant!
Siasar !
Naqisul Aql !
They use our love for others as an
excuse to tell us we are
weak in faith, too emotional for
a prophet, imam, judge, or leader. They
betray us by twisting our nature to use against us,
then call us Najis. Nasty. Unclean.
They make a hammer from religion,
pound us in the head,
fool us with hell. We question
injustice and they tell us we
breach the quality of life so we are
infidel. We ask for equality and they
call us impious, deviant.
They use our body, then
mock our beauty and call us weak.
They use our fairness to sell our soul, to
crush our dignity. They are individual
men and women who hold
tight to their ways by telling us we are
unequal. This is how they enforce
wrong cultural beliefs.
They are wrong.
We are not infidel.
We are different but equal.
We are women
Strong in our faith and ability.


 
Zahra A., who is in her 20s, is excited about telling her story through the project’s web site.

“She’s a daughter of uneducated farmers who place a high value on education for their children in the face of community and extended family disapproval,” says American novelist Naomi Benaron, who is Zahra’s mentor. “She puts despair on the page, but she’s eternally hopeful.”

Zahra teaches English at an orphanage and writes about Afghan girls’ life experiences and aspirations.

Masha Hamilton, an American journalist and novelist, founded The Afghan Women’s Writing Project in 2009, ten years after her first visit to Kabul.

She was inspired, she says, by all the strong, smart Afghan women she encountered, who are eager to learn and express themselves.

“It’s important for a certain kind of survival to tell your own story, to tell it out loud. When you tell your story, you see it in different ways, and then you make changes that are right for you,” Hamilton says. “We don’t teach English. They write in English as the best they can. We fix it up. We work with them on their creative story-telling abilities.”

Over the past three years, the number of women taking part in the project has grown steadily, as the women share their experiences with their friends and family.

“We have about 100 writers now," says journalist Susan Postlewaite, who edits their stories and poetry. "We’re adding more writers. Our oldest writer is 45, our youngest writer is about 14.”

These women often face enormous risks to write their stories. Postlewaite says some of them hide laptops under their burqas while walking through Taliban-controlled territory.

“They do write in secret to some extent. Their families may not necessarily be supportive of them expressing their opinions to the world," she says. "We had one writer who did write in secret. She had to walk four hours to get to an Internet [cafe], she was accompanied by a young male relative.”

Recently, AWWP moved out of cyberspace into an actual building in the capital city, Kabul, where women can come, use the Internet and inspire one another.

“I feel I’m not alone and there’s a need for change,” says Mahnaz, 20, who joined the group three years ago.

In her poem “Legitimizing Inequality,” she explores how women become victims of cultural and religious beliefs.
  
Mahnaz wants to continue writing and dreams of becoming a novelist. She says The Afghan Women’s Writing Project opened the door for her and other writers to have a voice and be a force for change.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: syed shabahat ali from: Islamabad
January 25, 2013 2:33 AM
If you see Afghanistan in the mirror of history you would find that traditions and customs have been prevailing from centuries and they have been equally prevalent across the afghan social structure. In fact the demographic diversity must influence the respective racial and lingual groups but the major norms of the society more or less have been the same.the bottom line is that you can not expect a revolution in the Afghan society unless a thorough and steady, mind set evolution may come and than the entire society become dialogue able with the rest of the world.The word Spartans is enough to understand.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More