History + Mission

Dear Visitor,

Thanks for coming by the AWWP site. Your involvement in this project—by reading the work of these Afghan women and offering comments of support—is crucial. This project began as a kitchen table idea, but has grown to include passionate and committed and talented people from across the U.S. and abroad, and that collaboration has made AWWP far richer than it would ever have been otherwise.

AWWP is dedicated to Zarmeena, a mother of seven who was executed by the Taliban in the Kabul’s Ghazi Stadium on November 16, 1999, for allegedly killing her husband. A videotape of the execution was smuggled out by RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan) and ran on the AP wire, where I happened to see it. Watching the videotape of Zarmeena kneeling on the soccer stadium and then being shot repeatedly was beyond disturbing. Without knowing any particulars, I wondered if in fact her act hadn’t been criminal, but instead had been one of enormous courage. I was determined to find out about her so that I could in some personal way honor her memory.

But few details were available, and this brought home to me that not only were women hidden beneath burqas, but their stories were silenced. After many years as a journalist, I had come to believe that telling our own stories is as important to a certain kind of survival as food and shelter. In response, I began to learn what I could about Afghanistan, reading books and articles, attending lectures. Through this process, I became further convinced that the voices of women were primarily available only through the media or their men; we heard little from them directly.

This interest led to my first visit to Afghanistan in 2004. I visited women in prison in Kabul and Kandahar, interviewed child brides, did shiatsu on women in Wardak, spoke to the matriarch of a family of opium growers outside Kandahar. The mood among women at that time was hopeful. When I returned at the end of 2008, though, I found the mood much more somber; the Taliban, never fully banished, was regaining strength, and women were concerned. This led to the founding of the project in May 2009.

Our mission is to support the voices of women with the belief that to tell one’s story is a human right. Though it sounds simple, I cannot say how important I think this is in a country where women have been told their stories do not matter, and urged to be silent, and warned against honesty.

But why should we care about an essay by a woman from Kandahar, or a poem by a woman from Logar? Because in telling their own stories, we’ve seen these women gather strength, courage, and self-confidence. They become empowered to make change within their homes, their communities, and eventually their country. They also gain computer literacy and skills of language and critical thinking, which increases their job-related skills. A number have used as part of their job or school applications work written for AWWP, shepherded through by our award-winning mentors and editors, and put up on a site updated constantly by our volunteer webmaster. They have become lawyers, journalists, parliament members.

Additionally, the voices of women tend to be moderating influences, and this makes it more important than ever that they become part of the national dialogue and eventually perhaps part of a movement that will speak out on issues important to women, issues of job and educational equality, healthcare, and more.

Thanks for the time you spend on this site, and for your support of these sisters of ours half a world away. I finish with the words of one of our writers, Roya, and with all my thanks.

Warmly, Masha Hamilton

I took my pen to write and at first I was afraid: what to write? about what? But this was a project to write about everything, and I took the pen; I didn’t write from outside of my heart, I began to write about whatever was in my heart… The writing project gave me a voice, the project gave me courage to appear as a woman, to tell about my life, to share my pains and experiences. I wonder how big the change in my destiny is because of your work and this project. Who would trust an online class, a writing project, to change a destiny and a faith? AWWP gave me the power to feel I am not only a woman; it gave me a title, an Afghan woman “writer.” … I took the pen and I wrote and everything changed. I learned if I stand, everyone will stand, other women in my country will stand. —Roya


Comments

  1. Hi,

    I’ve been to contact you for a long time. Aside from shared interests and experiences in Afghanistan and writing, I think my brother-in-law (Jeff Carpenter) may be a good friend of yours, Masha.

    I’m really moved by the mission of AWWP, and I look forward to hearing the work that’s been created at this Sunday’s performance here in NYC. I am also interested in connecting our group of Afghan American writers here in the US to your org (http://afghanamericanwriters.wordpress.com/). We are a support for Afghan American writers and artists. In fact, we just started a small workshop for women writers here, and I would love to explore the idea of exchanging work or doing some sort of collaboration with the women in Afghanistan.

    Many of us, in fact, write about our background and family histories; some of us about our experiences having returned to Afghanistan; and other, about the unique experiences of growing up Afghan in North America. Of course, or work is not limited to themes of identity. :)

    I’d love to learn more about your work, the women, plans for the future. And please do let me know if you’re interested in connecting with AAAWA.

    Warmly,
    Sahar Muradi
    sahar.muradi@gmail.com

  2. This is a fantastic project, and I’ve enjoyed reading it. Great work. Our blog, Attempting Denouement, included you on a list of our favorite Afghan blogs and platforms – so hopefully that’ll get you a bit extra traffic! http://wp.me/p2owGd-2X

  3. A poet, Sheree Rabe has brought your site to our attention. She mentions the book, The Sky is a Nest of Swallows, in an interview we just published. http://booksbywomen.org/poet-on-poetry-with-sheree-rabe/. Happy to see the book is available on Kindle. Looking for the paperback on Amazon.com soon. We’ve been very moved by stories of the struggles of Afghan women and girls in getting schooling , and being free to write. So much still to work for for the freedom of women and girls around the world.

  4. Thanks for finally talking about >Afghan Women’s Writing Project | History + Mission <Liked it!

  5. Salam to you, I hope you will be in A great atmosphere of health, I visit your website, it is very nice, we have to work for the impovering of Afghan women’s life they need more work, they are the most needy people of world they need our help. we hope that every Afghan will participate in improving the life of Afghan women, at the end please visit our website and facebook page http://www.ammoafg.org and http://www.facebook.com/ammoafg

    Regards

    Yousuf

Trackbacks

  1. [...] the growing restrictive tribal environment. Hamilton, who believes telling personal stories can be “as important to a certain kind of survival as food and shelter”, saw in this moment an opportunity to help women in Afghanistan. Since its beginning, AWWP has [...]

  2. [...] are many women who I find inspiring. Currently I am taken aback by the AWWP (The Afgans Women Writing Project) I put a link to the about page there.  The women who write there and who share their story really [...]

  3. [...] her profession.’ She continues fundraising for the Camel Bookmobile and has helped start the Afghan Women’s Writing Project. The Camel Bookmobile is currently being made into a [...]

  4. [...] Caged Bird by Maya Angelou A free bird leaps on the back of the wind and floats downstream till the current ends and dips his wing in the orange sun rays and dares to claim the sky. But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage can seldom see through his bars of rage his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing. The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom. The free bird thinks of another breeze and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn and he names the sky his own But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing. The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom. The featured photograph of Afghan woman came from the following link http://awwproject.org/discover-awwp/history-mission/ [...]

  5. [...] country, aims to help bring women’s voices to the fore, in a society in which they’ve long been “urged to be silent, and warned against honesty.” The pieces these women have produced range from lovely meditations that will be recognizable by [...]

  6. [...] Afghan Women’s Writing Project (AWWP) founder Masha Hamilton has found a way to support her organization and her new novel. For every digital book copy of What Changes Everything sold, Unbridled Books will donate $1 to her nonprofit. [...]

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