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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs