A Tradition of Resistance: the Afghan Women’s Writing Project

Women in Afghanistan have found an outlet to share their experiences, opinions, and voices in a project called the Afghan Women’s Writing Project. Located in Kabul at an undisclosed location, an internet center allows women to write to the online magazine without fearing backlash from the reigning Taliban. Many women pen their articles using their first names only, or even pseudonyms; in most cases, their families are unaware of their participation. Currently, 75 women take part in this initiative, finding themselves amidst a sea of stories of real women living under the oppressive hands of the Taliban. When the Taliban seized power in the 1990s, women lost many of their rights and were at the mercy of their male relatives. However, a little more than two years ago, Masha Hamilton, an American journalist, novelist, and former reporter in Afghanistan in 2004 and 2008, intended to create a means for women in Afghanistan to resist, even if in secrecy for now. Hamilton formed a coalition of activists and writers to act as mentors to these women. In order to remain active in the workshop, these women must file at least one article per month and live in Afghanistan.

Although many of the writings detail the difficulties and pains of Afghan women, such as the restrictions placed upon them to stay at home or their inability to work and go to school, some women find a sense of empowerment and use the project to channel a growing sense of confidence. Since the United States invasion in 2001, a “tradition of resistance” continues to unravel in Afghanistan, as women are willingly chastising the government and sharing their stories in order to publicly expose the human rights’ violations against women in particular. These ordinary women are finding their voices in a time of change. With this, women in Afghanistan are becoming part of the national fabric and can no longer be ignored.

Original article from The New York Times


  1. I think that the Afghan Women’s Writing Project is an amazing way for Afghani women to get their story out and provide them with sense of accomplishment and purpose. These women are doing their part to break the chains of the Taliban’s hold on them. Although these women currently must keep their identities a secret through the use of pseudonyms, or only using their first name, they know that they are doing something great that could potentially help change the country. It is small steps of revolt, like this Project, that can help others realize that there are ways to alter the direction the country is going in. This Project also helps bring awareness to injustices that occur frequently in Afghanistan that do not always get the attention that they deserve. People may know that women, in general, are oppressed in Afghanistan, but to hear their personal accounts of the specific situations they have been put in may have more of an impact on those who are on the outside. The more people begin to rise up against the Taliban in any way they can, the better chance there is that changes will be made.

  2. I find this story inspiring. I would like to think that I, as a western woman, appreciate the independence afforded me by my government – that I do not take it for granted. The idea that my personal freedom, ability to express myself, or capacity to guide my own fate could be so severely limited merely because of my gender makes me bristle. This project truly gives these Afghan women a voice, an act which may one day prove to have greater ramifications beyond self-expression now. In fact, I worry that their anonymity is not protected enough and that using their first names is not enough to keep them safe. If they can maintain this project, perhaps one day, and one day soon, these woman could prove to be active leaders in a renewed, pluralistic Afghanistan.

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