I have some pretty incredible friends. They’re off climbing mountains, running marathons, publishing papers, fighting terrorists and escalefters, and … curing cancer one wrap skirt at a time?
My Facebook feed is sometimes a scary place, since “news” for my particular set of acquaintances often relates to drone strikes, major natural disasters, and famines, but I’m often reminded of what an exciting time we live in. I am reminded of the power of advocacy and the ability of one person to make a world of difference. And with the above quote from an acquaintance from graduate school, I was reminded of today’s article about women learning to drive in post-Taliban Afghanistan. How different their lives are from mine, indeed.
Article: Afghan woman pushes for rights from behind the wheel (Reuters)
“’I can’t say any poems in front of my brothers,’ she said. Love poems would be seen by them as proof of an illicit relationship, for which Meena could be beaten or even killed.
“Pashtun poetry has long been a form of rebellion for Afghan women, belying the notion that they are submissive or defeated. Landai means ‘short, poisonous snake’ in Pashto, a language spoken on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The word also refers to two-line folk poems that can be just as lethal. Funny, sexy, raging, tragic, landai are safe because they are collective. No single person writes a landai; a woman repeats one, shares one. It is hers and not hers. Although men do recite them, almost all are cast in the voices of women. ‘Landai belong to women,’ Safia Siddiqi, a renowned Pashtun poet and former Afghan parliamentarian, said. ‘In Afghanistan, poetry is the women’s movement from the inside.'”
In rural Afghan villages, education remains beyond the reach of most young women and girls. While the U.S. and its allies have made significant gains elsewhere in Afghan women’s rights, young rural women still face a significant uphill battle against violence and oppression. The article’s discussion of landai is a refreshing glimpse into the independent, soulful, and sometimes bawdy tradition of women and poetry in rural Afghanistan’s strict post-Taliban society. But it also demonstrates just how precarious life remains for Afghan women, even as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw.
Article: Why Afghan Women Risk Death to Write Poetry (New York Times – Subscription Required)
“But word soon spread about the underground girls school — part of a shadow education system developed in places such as Spina to elude the Taliban. The full extent of the system is not known, but American and Afghan officials say such underground networks are not uncommon in places with a large insurgent presence.”
Despite massive gains made by the United States and its allies in the post-Taliban era (such as bringing female enrollment in schools from 5,000 to 2.5 million), over 2 million Afghan girls do not attend school. Those who do are subject to violence and intimidation. Some schools, such as the one in Spina, have gone underground to protect both teachers and students.
Article: In Afghanistan, underground girls school defies Taliban edict, threats (Washington Post)