Thursday, April 05, 2012
Persistence: Jalalabad Update #2
Joanna checks in after a few days of workshops in Afghanistan about the state of women’s rights and steps being taken towards hope…
We are in such a different land here in Jalalabad. Really all women wear full chador and then burqa on top of that. It's hard for me to understand why this is necessary. Sahar and I wear our scarves draped fully around our shoulders covering our front and then over our noses. If we didn't do this, we would be the center of attention in a very dangerous way.
The Nangarhar theatre guys are just great. They create plays about women's rights and take them into the real no-man's land in the rural areas and borderlands with Pakistan -absolute danger zones. After one show about women’s rights, someone threw an explosive device at them and it landed a few feet from their car. But they persist!
We have great talks about what to do; what can be done. The Pashtun areas are so deeply entrenched in these ancient traditions. What will change this? Yes, maybe the internet, maybe these theatre plays, more communication on Facebook and cell phones. But women are just not in the conversation at all. The 200 women at Nangarhar University (among the thousands of guys) are plagued with one indignity after another -- you can't use the library, why are you here, don't dare come in this building, etc. But they persist too. They are our hope.... and the great girls in our theatre workshops!
The girls are terribly withdrawn and shy, and slowly slowly are starting to speak out. We were passing impulses today and one girl burst into tears when it was her turn – she just froze with fright and then crashed. A few are feisty and willing to try everything. We all hope they encourage the other girls and show them it's okay. We have great talks with these girls too, but they have such a tough road ahead of them. What advice can we give them that doesn't endanger their lives? If they dare do anything to speak out, it is dangerous.... really, they will be killed. It seems the law doesn't apply here.
There are also great NGOs working for women's rights, and they offer some hope too. It's not that things are stagnant! So we will have our women's theatre team and they will be the pioneers... and they accept the challenge.
All for now ---
Lots of love from beautiful (it is!) Jalalabad.
J and M and S