Writing has some serious mental benefits. When I was in college, I went through a period of depression. I felt alone and unhappy most of the time. Every morning, I woke up and wrote in my journal. It helped me face the day ahead. At the end of the day, I wrote in my journal once again to clear my mind before I went to bed. I’m not sure how I would have handled my feelings if it weren’t for the release I got from writing.
Afghan Women’s Writing Project
For the women who are part of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project (AWWP), writing is much more than a release of emotions (like my college journaling.) Writing as part of the AWWP is the first opportunity for some of these women to articulate their feelings about life in Afghanistan. Founded by American Masha Hamilton in 2009, the program has helped more than 100 Afghan women find their voice.
The program is simple. Afghan women are mentored by writers and professors from other countries via the internet. Then, their essays and poetry are posted on the AWWP website. They’ve worked in both English and Dari (Persian) and have hosted reading groups and writing workshops in Kabul.
A global survey in 2011 named Afghanistan the most dangerous place to be a woman. The essays and poetry on AWWP are often filled with violence, terror and injustice. Still, many of the women write about their hope for the future.
One woman, who choose to remain anonymous, wrote about her forced marriage. Her husband divorced her when she was seventeen and took their son with him. Despite this terrible story, she has tried to move on and ends her essay by saying “But now, I have a dream to start a program for women to let them know about these problems. I want to save other women. I hope those who read this story would help me continue on this job to teach young girls in the far-away districts of Afghanistan about their rights.”
Many of the women have gone on to become lawyers, journalists and even parliament members after highlighting their AWWP work during the application process. The AWWP program gives women a chance to improve their writing skills, English ability and computer knowledge. More importantly, it gives them power.
A quote from a program participant says more than I ever could:
Who would trust an online class, a writing project, to change a destiny and a faith? AWWP gave me the power to feel I am not only a woman; it gave me a title, an Afghan woman “writer.” I took the pen and I wrote and everything changed. I learned that if I stand, everyone will stand, other women in my country will stand. –Roya
If you want to support these brave women, leave a comment on their essays or poetry. They are able to come back and read the comments on their pieces. If you want to do more, buy a copy of their book The Sky is a Nest of Swallows: To Tell One’s Story is a Human Right.
Why we write
The women of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project write for many reasons. They write to tell the truth. They write to show the world that Afghan women are strong. They write to let outsiders learn about Afghanistan beyond what’s on the nightly news. They write because they love writing.
I also write because I love writing. I write to gain new opportunities. I write to meet new people. I write to relax. I write to inspire.