The Afghan Women's Writing Project is an online magazine comprised of writing by Afghan women. Our project is run by a team of volunteers, and our goal is to empower Afghan women to have a voice in the world by writing stories and poetry about their lives. The Afghan women write in English and students receive ongoing mentoring from women writers primarily from the United States.
I got involved in AWWP because I happened to hear Masha Hamilton, who founded the Project, on Minnesota Public Radio. I was inspired to read her book, Staircase of a Thousand Steps, which led me to read more of her books. I was curious about this woman who writes such compelling books about places that I'm not sure I would ever have the courage to visit. On her web site, I found a link to the AWWP and was impressed with the stories that I read.
On the chance that I could be of assistance, I emailed her asking if I could be a mentor, since I have a background in writing. I now have sixteen students and each one is special to me. Whenever I get a story by one of them my heart sings because I know that they have braved the obstacles in their country and within their families to even get to a computer to write. Their lives are so completely different from anything that we Americans know or can possibly even understand - which is why this project is so important.
These students write in isolation and under incredibly difficult conditions. Any feedback or commentary that you make on their stories helps them know that they are being heard and encourages them to continue with their writing. Their stories will make you laugh, and cry and maybe even shake your fists at the sky in anger.
Here are some examples of their writing, selected by Project Director Rachel de Baere:
One of our writers running for parliament talks about vote-selling.
A writer on a bus traveling from Kandahar to Kabul in May found herself in the middle of a firefight between Taliban and Afghan Army.
It took one of our writers about six months to agree to write this piece about a forced marriage; She escaped this forced marriage after this piece ran with help of donations from readers, but her uncle has since kidnapped her brother, is holding him, has cut off three of his fingers, and demanding she come before him for "justice." She currently lives in fear and hiding.
This is actually a personal story, though written in third person.
This is one of my favorite poems; it emerged from a prompt from one of the teachers to write about what it was like to be 15 years old.
This is from one of our writers living in Taliban-held territory, writing for AWWP only with great bravery.
A lovely poem on loss and prayer.
A battle cry from one of the AWWP writers.
One of our writers was visiting her grandfather in the hospital when she met the girl who inspired this poem.
A writer loves her country but wishes she didn't.
BookBrowse member Mary Reed is a teacher/mentor for the Afghan Women Writing Project.
To get involved, please visit www.awwproject.org