Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Afghan Women's Writing Project

It is my honor to be involved with this mighty effort! These are courageous, inspiring, and talented women whose voices need to be heard, and with help from Afghan Women’s Writing Project they will be! SUPPORT AFGHAN WOMEN WRITERS!

Below is some basic info from the project's blog site:

The Women

The Afghan Women’s Writing Project began as an idea during novelist Masha Hamilton’s last trip to Afghanistan in November 2008. Her interest in Afghanistan was sparked in the late 1990s during the Taliban period, when she understood it was one of the worst places in the world to be a woman. Masha first visited the country in 2004, and was awed and inspired by the resolute courage of the women she met. When she returned, she saw doors were closing and life was again becoming more difficult, especially for women. She began to fear we could lose access to the voices of Afghan women if we didn’t act soon. The Afghan Women’s Writing Project is aimed at allowing Afghan women to have a direct voice in the world, not filtered through male relatives or members of the media. Many of these Afghan women have to make extreme efforts to gain computer access in order to submit their writings, in English, to the project.

The Teachers

The project reaches out to talented and generous women author/teachers here in the United States and engages them, on a volunteer, rotating basis, to teach Afghan women online from Afghanistan. (We are using women teachers solely due to cultural sensitivities in Afghanistan.) Through this ongoing interaction, we hope to encourage the women to develop their voices and share their stories. Portions of the work will be put on a blog on a regular basis. Due to security concerns, we will use the Afghan women writers’ first names only, editing out all names of family and friends and removing locators. Nevertheless, the existence of the blog in the world is a key part of the project for several reasons. First, it is intended to instill a sense of pride for these women. Secondly, it is also intended to educate us, the teachers and readers of the blog, about what the Afghan women’s childhoods and young adulthoods were like under the Taliban, and what they feel about current conditions in their country. The blog is also meant to be a record of the project itself. Finally, it is intended to provide a positive link between Afghans and Americans at a time when those relationships have to some degree soured.

The Project

Everyone involved in the project has donated their time and energy, from Jeff Lyons, the California-based blog master, to Rose Daniels in Brooklyn, NY, who contributed blog design, to Terry Dougherty, the Indiana-based technical specialist who worked tirelessly to set up the online classrooms. The author/teachers themselves are teaching pro bono, making time in already very busy schedules. In finding the writers in Afghanistan, Masha sought the guidance and advice primarily of American Ted Achilles, founder of SOLA (School of Leadership, Afghanistan), who has been living for more than five years in Kabul and Kandahar. She also sought advice from other American friends living there who have connections with young writers at Kabul University. Sally Goodrich, of the Peter M. Goodrich Memorial Foundation, provided the link to Ted Achilles and others. Mrs. Goodrich, along with her husband Don, supports Afghan students here in the U.S., and has spearheaded the building of a girls’ school in Afghanistan.

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