Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Women Against Women, Women for Women

Zan Zid Zan, Zan Barai Zan (Women Against Women, Women For Women) is the name of the play to be performed by the women’s troupe of the Nangarhar Theater Company. It goes up tomorrow at the Support Center for Widows. The script for this incredible play was essentially written by the six young pioneers of the women’s troupe. The story centers around two girls, Freshta and Nafisa, and their families as they negotiate decisions around education, early marriage and how to respond to gossiping neighbors.
The problem tree that the women created.

Freshta has just graduated from high school and been accepted into the medical program at Kabul University. She is the first person from her school to be granted admission into this highly competitive program, which usually happens only through nepotism and not merit. At the start of the show, Freshta’s parents, who are also educated, are fully supportive of their daughter until two neighborhood gossips purposefully sabotage their plans. The pair of backbiters, who ban their own daughters from going to school, spread rumors about Freshta and how her moral character is being corrupted through education, from dressing immodestly to running off with boys.  Her father overhears this and, worried about the family’s honor and reputation, suddenly reconsiders his approval.

Meanwhile, Freshta’s friend and neighbor, 12 year-old Nafisa is facing her own challenges. Her father, who is illiterate and poor, decides to marry her off to a very wealthy man, who is 40 years-old and already married with children.  He reasons that this would rescue their family from poverty. He forbids Nafisa from going to school, dismisses the desperate pleas of his wife against the marriage and violently abuses both of them.  Freshta learns about her young friend’s trials and seeks the help of one of her former teachers, a staunch advocate of women’s rights. The teacher visits Nafisa’s father at home and tries to convince him to cancel the marriage and allow his daughter to complete her studies. She points out girls’ rights to education and its merits, as specified in the Koran, and the minimum age (18) for a girl to marry, as written in Afghan civil law. Nafisa’s father is not persuaded. Meanwhile, the two gossips continue with their chatter and sabotage.

The mothers then intervene on behalf of their daughters and seek the moral guidance of the mullah.  He agrees to help.  One day, when all the men gather in the masjid for the mullah’s routine talk, he speaks about education and marriage. He reminds the men that it’s a farz or moral duty of every Muslim to seek education, both men and women. And that the Koran also decrees that a girl should be of mature age to marry and cannot be forced to do so against her will. Eventually, the fathers have a change of heart and allow their daughters to go to school. The girls are overjoyed and celebrate. The two back-biters also reassess their behavior and realize that it’s un-Islamic to gossip and that, as the idiom goes, gossiping about someone amounts to eating the corpse of your own brother.

The schedule of performances in Jalalabad is as follows:

4/23 – The Support Center for Widows
4/25 – AFCECO Safe House for Children
4/26 – Jalalabad Women’s Prison
4/27 – Women’s shura (council) in Surkhrod district
4/29 – Afghan Women’s Educational Center (AWEC), Behsud district

May we break a leg tomorrow! Stay tuned…


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