"I am a woman with a wild imagination/puppets and clowns won't steal my will/because my imagination is full of peace." - from "My Wild Imagination" by Mahnaz
What a brilliant day--not only is this the UN International Day of the Girl Child, but this is the day, October 11, 2013, when Malala Yousafzai was a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize. She did not win, but she has captured the hearts and minds of millions around the world who admire her for her bravery and for her beautiful mind.
Malala must still fight the Taliban, who continue to make threats against her life. And so must many women and girls in the region: especially in Afghanistan. If you read the work of the writers on the Afghan Women's Writing Project (AWWP) website, you will encounter Afghan women and girls who in ways large and small resist the Taliban, and resist the strictures of a deeply patriarchal society, one that threatens to silence them or worse if they don't submit.
These writers are freedom fighters--only they use the pen not the sword to fight for their rights, for the support and protection that will allow them to contribute fully to their families. They believe in the wild idea that they should be respected and nurtured for individual souls that they are, that they should not have to make themselves small so others will feel big.
In honor of this great day, AWWP writers composed pieces that speak to the realities and dreams of contemporary Afghan girls.
In "I am a Girl", Seeta shows us so vividly what Afghan girls are up against:
"My mother wants/
to send me to school./
My father wants/
to sell me for dollars./
I am a girl, a support for my mother,/
a girl--shame for my father./
She kisses me--he beats me/
for small mistakes./
She encourages me to work on my studies./
He stops me going to school./
I am a girl, who does not know/
which identity is the one for me."
And with lyricism and beauty, Nasima shows us inside the hurting hearts of so many Afghan girls in "A Girl In My Family":
"My heart is full./
And though I have more words to say,/
I am afraid to talk. They placed/
me in unaccustomed darkness,/
and though I have feet to walk,/
there is nowhere to go./
There is no land to stand on as I move./
I have eyes to see,/
but there is no light;/
I have a mouth to speak,/
but a seal of silence/
is stamped on my lips./
I have been sentenced/
in family court for the crime/
of being a girl--"
In "Proud to be an Afghan Girl" Aysha writes of the world she dreams of, one that she and so many Afghan girls are working hard to bring to fruition:
"One day not just our mothers will support us but our country will support us and be proud of us. We are sure that the fight for our rights for a better tomorrow is not wrong. We have this right from Islam that a Muslim girl has the right to live the way she wants.
Yes, we face many problems but we won't stop. Not today and not tomorrow because our country needs us. If out there are terrorists with guns in their hands to kill, then we have pens in our hands to teach.
Every Afghan girl I know believes that we will help rebuild our country."
And in N's ode to the unborn daughter of her dreams, she shares with us just how she would treasure this girl, if given the chance:
"The only dream--the only one/
I have in my life is to have/
a daughter--to love her,/
to love her like myself--a daughter/
I, her mother, will listen to./
The day she is born, I will hold/
a big ceremony, welcome/
my angel, as she steps into my life--/
my little fairy./
I will name her Rose,/
call her Rain.
-from N's "Angel Daughter"
And then there is Mahnaz and her wild imagination. There are girls who won't even dare to dream for fear that the men in their world will read their minds. But Mahnaz tells us about her glorious visions in "My Wild Imagination":
"I am one of those women with a wild imagination,/
who yearns to see equality of Afghan men and women/
in action and law. I want lovers to walk/
in the streets of Kabul, Herat, Mazar,/
holding hands, sharing hugs, in all cities/
Free of harassment and harsh looks aimed at them like bullets./
I want women to drive cars, taxies, and buses--/
I long to see Afghan women working with confidence, with strength./
I am one of those women with a wild imagination./
I want to see women running in the park,/
unburdened by worries that someone may judge them,/
women running for health, for leadership,/
for president, women swimming, enjoying and changing society."
On this great day, let's treasure and listen to the girls of the world brave enough to what we all should already know--that they are equal, and they have so much to give this world. Brava, dear writers and freedom fighters, brava!
Join AWWP on Oct 17 in Washington, DC for an evening rich in Afghan culture. There will be poetry, dance, a short documentary, and so much more. For ticket information, please visit here.