Afghan Women Writers
April 16th, 2010
The Afghan Women’s Writing Project offers a way to support Afghan women emerging writers in a delightful, eye-opening and very meaningful way.
Novelist Masha Hamilton began this project to give voice to Afghan women. The deteriorating opportunities for women from her first visit in 2004 until her return in 2008, inspired her to create a project where women could share their thoughts from the safety of their own homes, unfiltered by family members or the media.
Women who join the project are mentored, via back and forth emails, as they polish the writing of their experiences. Many of them participate in secret. Their mentors, female authors and teachers, volunteer on a rotating basis. Writing workshops are taught in online classrooms.
I have met and interviewed several women in this project and will be sharing some of their life stories in my presentations upon my return. Some of the most promising of these writers have told me that they came to believe in their writing abilities due to the supportive comments left by readers on the pages of the website. These poems, short stories and essays provide a window into the lives of Afghan women that we would not have otherwise.
For example, one woman writes:
Let the world know
I am a poem.
My soul is crazy.
no matter what happens next,
no matter if no one reads the verse of my mad thoughts,
no matter if dust covers my poetry papers,
I am a poem.
I write about the waves of my soul’s water.
My poem tastes like a glass of black tea
when you are tired.
It is the spice of my lunch every day.
My poem sounds like the sky singing in summer,
like rain in the spring.
My poem sounds like
parrots talking, sparrows chatting
in a lonely tree in the valley.
I bloom, bloom, bloom.
When I write about mirrors
pain, life, tea, sparrows, eyes,
I write, write, write.
No matter that, in her hands, Nature
has a hammer, leveled
at my head, poised to kill my poem.
I don’t give up.
I am a poem.
While the schools Burn
“I am burning,”
says the school.
“Who will save me?”
cries the school.
“Where are my students,
the teachers, our friends?”
“Why do the Taliban burn me?”
They are not literate.
Teachers receive threats,
get kidnapped, beheaded.
Friends, families fear.
Unread books are sad.
They too, burned
by guns that write with fire.
Is there anyone
any international society
who will help us overcome our loss,
We wait, hope, want.
Please, help us
invite the return of knowledge.
Below is an excerpt from an essay written by a woman returning to her home in Mazar Sharif:
…After leaving Fatema’s house, I saw a small girl trying to clean a car. People on the street were laughing at her. I thought: Why is she on the street? Why isn’t she studying instead? How can I take them out of the darkness? I know I alone can’t do anything, but we as a people must start anew. We should never let any girl be a victim of her family. We must give women the courage to let their voices be loud and to know their value. We must not ignore women when they talk about their rights.
Who will stop these crimes against women? Who will hear our voices? Who will hold our hands and take us out of the darkness? Who can hear the meaning of our tears? Who will bring peace to those who are begging on the streets?
For all the questions, I have one answer—unity. Our country is one of the poorest in the world because women live like slaves and do not participate in society. We as a people have forgotten to value each other as human beings. We are all equal. It is our combined hands that can destroy or build our country. If we do not try, nobody will help us.
And another excerpt from
…Now my heart wants to shout directly into the ears of my people: “For Allah’s sake, stop blaming others for our miseries and problems.” I want to reach out to millions of Afghans, President Karzai included, and tell them: “We have had enough of the blaming game. Let’s not play it anymore. Let’s take responsibility for our own actions and our own faith, for our people cannot take any more pain of dirty politics and lies.
You can help by commenting on the writings
and donating money
for flash drives and netbook computers. Your generosity can help open prison doors.