Parwana book project
Redux Pictures photographer Katherine Kiviat and journalist Scott Heidler have allowed WarShooter to post ten of the images and interviews contained in their the two-year book project, Parwana. the project documents the stories of women in Afghanistan who are acting as "agents of change" there. None of the photographs have been published in the United States.
BEBE GUL GHOLAMRI Flag Woman with Street Construction Crew “I feel that it’s a good thing that women are now working side-by-side with men.” Q: How long have you been working on rebuilding the roads of Kabul? A: One year, two months. Q: What were you doing before this? A: I went to people’s houses and washed their clothes. Q: How does your husband feel about you working on the streets of Kabul? A: My husband died two years ago. Q: How did he die? A: He was killed by a landmine in Kabul. Q: How did you find out about this construction job? A: My friend Zekia found out about the job and told me. Q: How do you feel about doing a job that is normally reserved for men? A: I do this job to help our government and help build a better country for my children. Being a widow, it is very difficult for me to earn money. This job gives me the money to buy food for my family. I feel that it’s a good thing that women are now working side-by-side with men. Q: How do the men treat you, the men you work next to? A: They act like brothers. Q: This job is very important for the reconstruction of Kabul and Afghanistan, how do you feel about the role that you are playing in the reconstruction? A: It is great that the situation has become better in Afghanistan, so we can do work like this to help it become even better. Q: Is that why you took this job? A: The main reason I took this job was because my children need to be fed. Q: If you could get the same pay for washing clothes as you do at your construction job, which job would you take? A: My current one, because this job is reconstructing the streets of Kabul, not just washing someone’s clothes.
FARESHTA KOHISTANI U.N. Photographer “With no photos to document what has happened in Afghanistan our story would not be complete.” Q: Why did you become a photographer? A: In the past, during fighting in Afghanistan, no one really took pictures of what was going on. This is history, so I felt that it is very important to document what goes on in my country. Q: Why is it so important? A: For instance, during the Taliban time all the women were trapped inside our houses and lived like animals. Just eating and sleeping. It is important that our history is always documented. Q: Is that when you decided to be a photographer, during the Taliban time? A: Yes, during this time I could see photojournalists trying to get the story of what was going on in Afghanistan out to the rest of the world. This is when I realized how important this job would be. Q: When you decided to become a photographer, were you worried because you were a woman? A: I accepted taking this job even with the many difficulties and dangers. It is very important that we have female photographers in Afghanistan. They are the only people truly able to tell the story of Afghan women. Q: Why do you like it even though it is dangerous? A: It registers our history as a country. With no photos to document what has happened in Afghanistan our story would not be complete. This works benefits me, my family and my country. Before I thought taking photos was just aiming a camera and clicking a button. Now I know that there are many skills needed to take good photos; location, timing, lighting many things. Q: How do you feel about the future of Afghanistan? A: This work helps. It helps Afghans know what is going on in their own country and expands their minds outside of their own life. Q: How did your family react when you told them you were going to do this? A: They were very interested and supportive. Not only is this a new job for someone in my family, but it’s a new job for Afghan women. They see the importance of that and are very happy for me. Q: What do you say to other girls when they tell you they would like to become a photographer? A: I tell them that they should do it. One of my sisters is now thinking of becoming a photographer too. Q: Your father was killed during the fighting, if he was still alive would he like what you are doing? A: He was very different from many Afghan men. He would be very happy for me and would want me to continue with this work. I was very young when he died, but even then Kabul was much different than now. Freer than it is today, he still desired his family to live in a better, freer society. He would be happy seeing me working.
FARZANA Bread Maker “Things are moving forward, but don’t leave behind those who still suffer from the past.” Q: What did you do at the bakery? A: It was a work program for women run by Massouda Jalal, the current Minister of Women’s Affairs, but then she was working for World Food Program. This was during the Taliban time when women could not work outside of the home. Q: Where were these bakery shops? A: They were in another woman’s house. Q: What do you do now for a living? A: I have gone back to the World Food Program to find a job, but there is nothing for me. I am now trying to get a job. Q: What kind of work are you looking for now, do you want to go back to being a baker or something different? A: I would like to work in an office, but I can’t read or write so I will have to go back to working in a bakery. Q: How do you feel about your future, do you think you will learn how to read and write and then get a better job? A: I can’t know before something happens. I hope that I can become literate, I hope that I can get a better job and then a better life, but I don’t know if that will happen until it happens. Q: How do you feel about the future of all Afghan women? A: Things are getting better, girls are going to school and that will help them have a better future. And having educated women can only help all of Afghanistan in the future. Q: Let’s look at your current situation, if you were not prevented from going to school during the Taliban time, you could have an office job right now. Do you encourage other girls to go to school, now that they can? A: It is very important that all young girls go to school. Because I did not go to school, I don’t have a good job. I tell them this and encourage them to go to school. I tell them to look at me, I will never get any other work then in a bakery so they should go to school and learn as much as they can. This will help them have a better future. Q: Now that there is a new path for Afghan women, what needs to change right now, what is most important? A: I think that the government should do something for the women who are illiterate. Make programs like factory work or something like this, so those who can’t read or write can feed their family. Things are moving forward, but don’t leave behind those who still suffer from the past.
FARZANA WAHIDY Photojournalist “Sometimes the only way to get a true Afghan story is to have an Afghan woman take the photos.” Q: Why is photojournalism important in Afghanistan? A: Over 90% of Afghans are illiterate, so they can’t read to get information about their country and the world. I find photojournalism more useful because such a large percentage of my country’s population gets their news from looking at photos. Q: What is the importance of you being a female photojournalist? A: It is clear that a woman is very open with another woman. To capture a true Afghan story, a story about Afghan women, sometimes the only way to get the true story is to have an Afghan woman take the photos. Q: What does this do for your work, in other words, what would be the difference between your work on a story that involves women and that of an Afghan man? A: In some cases only women can cover the story like in prisons or hospitals. So if there are no female photojournalists, the story does not get told. Q: Do people in your life, family and friends, recognize that the job you are doing is an important one? A: Yes, my father always talks to me about my work that this is a chance to tell the true story of Afghanistan and that this is a big responsibility and that I should respect it. He tells me that I should do something, not just know about it, but do something about it. Q: You are a leader in what you are doing, heading down a path few Afghan women have. What do you say to women when they tell you they want to be a photojournalist? A: When I go to the provinces, some of the women say to me that they would like to be like me; literate, travel and see many places and to be working. I tell them to study and help their male family members understand how important that is to them. Q: You could be hurt doing this kind of work, why do you still do it? A: Some people say to me that if I die doing this work that it will be a shame for my family. If I die doing this, it’s not a shame for me because I have big responsibility with this job. If I die doing this work, I will be proud. Q: The lives of Afghan women are slowly changing. What do think of the future for Afghan women? A: I think Afghan women should not be sleeping now. There are reports everywhere that the rights for women are changing, but it is only happening in the big cities. But in the provinces, they are still not aware of the freedoms they have. Q: What needs to happen to improve this? A: There needs to be more classes for men and for women to teach them the rights of women. We need to change the minds of the men. If this happens, then women’s minds will change too.
GENERAL KHATOOL MUHAMMAD ZAI Afghan Army Paratrooper “Women are playing a role in helping Afghanistan, with or without the burka on.” Q: How long were you a paratrooper? A: 20 years. Q: Why did you decide to join the military, was it just to jump out of planes? A: I’m an athletic woman and I was drawn to a career that used physical activity and I have always been interested in airplanes and skydiving. Q: What happened during the Taliban time, were you able to still be in the military and be a paratrooper? A: When the Taliban took control no women could even go outside, really, I acted like all of the other women and stayed inside. I did not forget about my job, I drew things about my job. And was sewing at home. Q: When was the last time you jumped? A: The last time I jumped was Mujaheddin Freedom Day. There are three major Afghan holiday celebrations—Afghan Freedom Day, New Years Day, and Mujaheddin Freedom Day. Now that the Taliban is gone, we have a military display for these holidays. Q: What do you tell the young Afghan women who approach you and say they want to be like you? A: I tell them to do everything on their own and be honest when they deal with all people. They should not stray from their aim and should not do anything that might compromise that goal. They need to do everything on their own if they want to have a high position like president. But most importantly, they should just be honest. Q: Do you want to run for president, make it President Khatool instead of General Khatool? A: If it’s God’s will I will become president, but there are many qualified people out there who can the do a good job now. I think it is important for me to keep my current job and do well at what I am doing now. If people want me to run I will run, but not now. If God wills it. Q: What do you see as the future for the women of Afghanistan? Women are making breakthroughs, but isn’t there a great deal that still needs to be done? A: If Afghan women have good jobs with good pay it will bring women back to Afghanistan who have left, bring a much stronger voice for the Afghan woman. In the world right now there is a golden opportunity for some women, but Afghan women have a diamond opportunity. If they use this opportunity, they can do anything. Q: Even now some parts of the Afghan community are not open to the changing role and position of women, do you see that changing anytime soon? For example, some families are still forcing women to wear burkas…will that change anytime soon? A: Improving the economic situation here can help the women who have to provide for their family on their own. Some of the women wear burkas because they are so poor that they are embarrassed of their clothes and cover them up with a burka. If the economy improves, they can buy clothes that they are proud of and not wear burkas. But the main point is that women are playing a role in helping Afghanistan, with or without the burka on…..security is also very important to them. For the burka, it is important to do what their culture says, or the culture they believe in. Every culture in the world does different things. I can’t tell them that they should wear burkas or that they should not. What I can say is that Afghan women should be working.
HOMAIRA HABIB Radio Journalist “I am hopeful that soon there will be a day when men and women in all of Afghanistan, from all walks of life, stand side by side.” Q: What are you teaching in your education radio program? A: Most of it focuses on how to teach and treat children. We also teach women about their rights, both in Islam and human rights. How they can work outside of the home and problems that they may face. Q: Do you think this is an important job, educating women about their rights? A: After so many years of war, many Afghan women do not know about their rights so it is the duty of journalists in Afghanistan to teach the women their rights. This is especially important for us as we are a radio station for women. We reach half of the women in the city of Herat. Q: What do you think the future holds for the women of Afghanistan? A: I am happy with the way the situation is going for women here. I am proud that after the Taliban time when women had very few rights, and now just three years later many women are holding high positions in the government, even governor. I am hopeful that soon there will be a day when men and women in all of Afghanistan, from all walks of life, stand side by side. Q: What do you say to young girls when they tell you that they want to be a journalist for a women’s radio station like you? A: I think the most important way to help Afghan women is to educate them and working as a journalist at a women’s radio station is the best way to do this. It is also important that these words come from another Afghan women. This is our responsibility to educate our sisters. We need more women to do this, so whenever any girl asks me about this job I tell them to come and learn as this is very important work for the future of our country. Q: What needs to change in the minds of Afghan men so that women in this country can reach their potential? A: Some Afghan men violate Islamic rules, because they don’t know them or they ignore them. Islam gives women rights, but in many places in Afghanistan they don’t have those rights. In Islam, women are given the right to go outside and work, to learn and to take part in teaching her children. Some men in Afghanistan don’t respect this. If Afghan men learn more about the rights women should have, things will get better. Q: If you had the choice to leave the country and live an easier life, would you leave Afghanistan? A: I would not leave. I prefer to stay and work with and for my people. When we lived outside of Afghanistan in the past, I suffered a lot. I would much rather be with my people and working for them.
HURIA HESSARY Midwife Trainer “The biggest problem is that pregnant women do not want to come to the hospital.” Q: Why did you want to join this program where you learn to train others to be midwives? A: The women here have lots of problems because they don’t have midwives to take care of them. The men here are very strict, so only women can be midwives and there is a great need for more. I wanted to help my people here. Q: What is the most important thing that you teach women about being a midwife? A: The most important thing to teach them is to serve the people and help them because they have not had this kind of help in a very long time. We need them so badly here, Bamiyan is so far away that no one really wants to come here. It’s important that we train the women who live here. Q: What is the biggest problem in the midwife section of the hospital here? A: The biggest problem is that pregnant women do not want to come to the hospital. One woman died last week because she refused to come to the hospital. Q: Why did she not want to come to the hospital? A: It’s a cultural problem. They think that it is bad to bring a woman to the hospital. Q: What do you think the future holds for Afghan women? A: If there is support and help, I think it will get better. If there is no outside help I think that the women of my country will be forgotten. Q: What is the most important thing that needs to change for Afghan women right now? A: The biggest problem is that Afghanistan is a society for men. As it is currently set up, there is no true place for women. It is too strict for women. So many women have come to the hospital very close to death. We ask them why they did not come earlier and they tell us that they did not have permission. If the government and the international community pay attention to the women here, the men of this country will have to change their ideas about women. Q: How do the men need to change? A: If we focus on economic support for women, give them jobs, men will have to change the way they think about women. Like here in Bamiyan, the women are the ones doing the hardest work. They are the ones in the fields. Q: What do you tell young girls who tell you they would like to be midwives? A: I tell them that studying is the most important thing. If they work hard, they can do anything they want. I’m happy that many want to be midwives, because it helps their fellow countrywomen.
JAMILA MUJAHAD TV Journalist “For the first time in a long time all the people of Afghanistan have their eyes open, they know what needs to be done for a good future.” Q: How long have you been a journalist? A: It has been 24 years that I have been working at Afghan Radio and Television. I started working on the children’s program and have been with them ever since. Q: Were you still working during the Taliban time? A: During the Taliban time, I did not leave Kabul. I stayed in my home and suffered many ways. I was the first women journalist to announce the fall of the Taliban and for this I have won a journalistic award. Q: Where were you when you reported the fall of the Taliban? A: Right here where I have always worked, Afghan Radio and Television. Because I was in such a rush to get here and report, I did the broadcast with my slippers on my feet and had to wear a burka to get to the studio. One week after this broadcast, we restarted the news operation. Q: How long had it been since you did your last broadcast before this historic reporting? A: For ten years before, there was a very bad situation here in Kabul, so this was the first broadcast I had done in over a decade. Q: This historic broadcast must have been amazing for you for two reasons, one because you were not allowed to do your job during the rule of the Taliban and two, because this was a very big moment for your country. How did that make you feel? A: It was always my dream to give the announcement of freedom to the people of Afghanistan. I now thank God that I can see these days of freedom for my fellow country people. Q: A TV journalist is a difficult job for a woman in any country. To what can you credit your success in Afghanistan - probably the most difficult place for a woman to have your job? A: I had always had the interest and drive to do this. My family and husband were always by my side supporting me in this career. Q: Your dedication and motivation are something to admire. What advice do you give Afghan women who want to be like you, maybe not the exact profession, but women who want to pursue their dreams? A: Every time, anywhere I am with Afghan women I encourage them to get an education and go to school and most importantly, understand their rights as an Afghan woman. Also, that they need to support and promote freedom and liberty. Q: How do you see the future for women in Afghanistan? A: I am hopeful for two reasons. For the first time in a long time all the people of Afghanistan have their eyes open, they know what needs to be done for a good future. We have all experienced war and we know what we have to do to prevent more war. And the second is that now the world –after a very long time- is paying attention to us, to my country Afghanistan.
LAILAMA NABIZADA Afghan National Army Helicopter Pilot “If woman were treated the same as men, we might even be better pilots.” Q: How do the men you are flying react when they climb into your helicopter and see that a woman is in the cockpit? A: I have not gotten many bad reactions. When they see me behind the controls, most of the passengers say encouraging words. They say positive things about me flying and tell me to continue with my job. My sister is also a helicopter pilot and she has even flown President Karzai. He did not say anything to either of us yet though. Q: Do you think President Karzai does not pay special attention to you and your sister because he accepts you as a pilot like he would any other person? A: It’s good that President Karzai does not give me special treatment that I’m a female pilot, but I think we could use some encouragement. Q: So maybe there’s a lack of encouragement, but what about men making it harder for you than it already is? A: There used to be bad reactions from men in the past, but now my sister and I don’t give them the opportunity. We act very confident and have a courageous air about us so now the bad reactions are much less. We don’t give them the time or the opportunity to react badly. If women were treated the same as men, we might even be better pilots. Q: What are your mother and father like and how did they encourage you? A: Our father was working for the army before, but now he is retired. Our mother can’t read or write, but she encouraged us to do big things with our lives and that we could do whatever we wanted to do. Q: You are setting a positive example for women in Afghanistan, how do you feel about the future for women in your country? A: I know that our work is an encouragement to many women and girls especially when we go to far places. We always tell women that they need to study. This is the most important thing. I think the future for Afghan women is bright. They now know that they need to get an education and they need to better themselves. Q: Education is an area that needs a great deal of work, what else needs to change for women in Afghanistan? A: I think that the government needs to encourage the women of this country to work. If they see that women like my sister and I can live a good life by working, it will encourage women to work and better themselves. Q: How do you feel about the future of Afghan women in the military? A: There are few women who can join the military because they are not educated. More women need to go to school and then more women will be able to join the military.
Which Photo Agency Is Hardest To Deal With? (Please use the comment section to address some of the issues you see.)
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