Teenage girls in Afghanistan are often caught in a conflict between fear of repressive traditions and brave hopes that their country’s postwar future will improve for women.

In this section—our third Teenage Writers Workshop feature in 2014—AWWP teens explore the conflict in pieces ranging from what career choices they have, to questioning society’s position on issues that have a profound impact on their freedoms.

In What Will I Be, Anisa, 17, ponders her future career choices. Shahida, 14, in her essay When I Was Young, explains how she jumped from wanting to be a teacher and policewoman to wanting to be a lawyer and oncologist, and Frozan, 16, in I Want to Be an Astronaut, explains that astronauts know the value of life on Earth. Meanwhile Shahira, 13, in Surfer, Rock Climber, Gymnast, laments the lack of options for women athletes.

The culture conflict comes through clearly in Girl Up—on a Bike, where Arifa, 14, tries to understand why her parents think it would embarrass the family if she rides a bicycle with the U.N. Foundation’s Girl Up campaign in Kabul. “Why should I feel shame riding my bike? Is it … something really rude that makes my family shamed in their relatives’ eyes?”

Similarly in Orphan Girl, Alia, 15, says the solution to all this is to “discourage cultural habits that have a bad effect on society.” But it’s difficult, she says, when you look at her own school where a group came this year to give students and teachers information about rights and government and said girls should marry at 15.

Finally, on the light side, don’t miss the lovely poems Rain and the series of poems about the provinces—Oh, Baba Sahib, Beauty of Sangkhalat, and Mazar My Homeland.

The stories and poems here have been edited for length and clarity. Enjoy—

Susan Postlewaite, Editing Director

To read the poems and essays click on the links below.

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Stories and Essays


Photo by Phil Borges; graphics by Blatman Design.