Since early 2014, I have worked as a writing mentor for the Afghan Women’s Writing Project (AWWP), where I lead online creative writing workshops for women based in Kabul, Afghanistan. Responding to weekly writing prompts, workshop participants create poems and short essays which are discussed as a group, then revised and often published via the organization’s blog. The AWWP strives to create a safe, empowering space where women can share their stories with the world without the threats of violent retaliation, harsh criticism, or indifference that are part of many Afghan women’s lives. The organization was founded by journalist and novelist Masha Hamilton to honor the memory of Zarmeena, an Afghan mother of seven who was publicly executed by the Taliban in 1999. All of the AWWP’s mentors are women, which I believe makes it a little less intimidating for workshop participants who have been traditionally oppressed by male presences. I passionately believe in the importance of women collaborating with other women, encouraging them to find their voices and share their experiences.
Storytelling puts the power back into the hands of the writer. Through writing, workshop participants bring more narrative coherence to their own experiences, which offers a renewed sense of power and freedom within the constraints and oppression of their circumstances. When asked to reflect on her experiences working with AWWP, Nasima, a writer who lives in the Herat province, stated that the AWWP “understand[s] me and respect[s] me… AWWP provided me time to talk and find my heart. When I am writing… from my heart to paper, it makes me free of pain and hardship.” Continue reading