Featured Organizations, Gender Equality, Gender-based Violence, Rights, Social Media & Tech, Women & Media
Comments 21

Why Do Afghan Women and Girls Write Despite Threats?

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Written By: Noorjahan Akbar

Three years ago a close friend and I decided to publish a book of women’s writings in Kabul, Afghanistan. The book, which included more than thirty poems, narratives and essays in Persian was a hit, but we never imagined it would grow to become a living platform for Afghan girls and women who are students, writers, aspiring journalists and poets.

Today, our book, Daughters of Rabia, has grown into a social media blog with more than 50 thousand readers every week and an English website, Free Women Writers, where we translate and share our stories with the world. Our book has gone to six provinces in Afghanistan and more than 125 women and a few men have written for us about issues that impact women’s lives.

This year, we were finally able to launch a scholarship program to support one Afghan woman’s higher education and offer professional guidance to women in Kabul and around the country using the internet. We also began working with a local radio station and two local newspapers to reach people who don’t have internet access.

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While writing as a form of protest has existed in Afghanistan and other parts of the world for centuries, more than once contributors to Free Women Writers have used pen names or have asked me to remove a story they wrote for security reasons. On one occasion, a writer who had written about the atrocities of Taliban against women was threatened with death. In another, the relatives of one of the contributors launched character-assassination attacks against her on social media because she had dared to write about gender-based violence in her family. On numerous occasions our blog and social media outlets have been hacked, we’ve been threatened, sent demeaning pornographic images, as many have tried to discourage us from writing.

From their homes to the streets to social media, Afghan women and girls are threatened for simply raising their voices and telling their stories because it is assumed that by discussing the issues they face, they bring shame and dishonor to their communities and to Afghanistan as a whole.

What is still incredible to me is that nearly all our contributors have written for us more than once. Even the women who write with pen names or have been threatened return and write more when they feel ready. They write about the obstacles they face in going to school, about early marriage, about street harassment and sexual violence, and many other forms of discrimination that continue to impact our lives as women and girls. This is a small testimony to the tremendous resilience of women and girls in Afghanistan and around the world.

When we write, we say loud and clear that we won’t be silenced or shunned. In a world where femininity and being female is seen as inferior and shameful and in communities where the most natural parts of our bodies are treated as taboo and a woman’s voice is considered sinful, it is an act of conscious protest when we decide to tell our stories.

Our stories are also a tool for speaking with one another. Patriarchy sustains itself by isolating women and teaching them that the struggles they face are either their own fault or isolated incidents- not a result of existing sexism and patriarchy. When we write our stories, whether they are about violence or any other topic that has shaped us, we build bridges with other women. Together we slowly deconstruct the walls of isolation, competition, and rivalries built to divide us as women.

Afghan women, and women around the world, have realized the power that our stories and our voices have in changing the world. We have decided that the days of silence in the face of injustice and violence are over.

Written by Noorjahan Akbar of Free Women Writers, a Girls’ Globe featured organization.

Featured Image: Asian Development Bank / Flickr Creative Commons
Embedded Image: Noorjahan Akbar / Free Women Writers

21 Comments

  1. Pingback: ¿Por qué las mujeres y niñas de Afganistán Escribir pesar de las amenazas? – apserranoblog

  2. You are brave and right. I blog about being old, but I am in the Uk. I would love to hear from any older person about ageing in Afghanistan.
    Will of course respect any confidant issues.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. Seniors, especially women and those living with disabilities and mental illnesses face a lot of obstacles here in Afghanistan and around the world. we need to provide better care for them.

  3. Keep writing and telling the world what they are sometimes still unaware of. I sure hope some day soon things will change for the better and women will be able to live their lives freely and without fear anymore.
    We’re with you.
    Take care.

  4. Pingback: Why Do Afghan Women and Girls Write Despite Threats? — Girls’ Globe – s.w.o.r.d.s

  5. Pingback: Why Do Afghan Women and Girls Write Despite Threats?

  6. jamivee says

    I imagine it will take many generations of women willing to speak up before they notice a shift. Look how long it’s taking us in America to become equal…

    • And still there are so many discriminatory practices in the US and around the world towards women. Everywhere, we still have work to do to create equal societies, but together we can. Thank you for your comment!

  7. This is wonderful. Even though I grew up in Saudi Arabia, it is still easy for me to forget about the extreme inequality women face in many parts of the world. May these young women continue to speak and be heard.❤

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