How can the world see the true Afghan story, if there are no Afghan female writers, photographers, camera operators or TV producers at foreign news outlets?
With the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan officially over, the country is undergoing its first transition to democracy in almost a century. The need to advance the careers of Afghan female journalists is critical.
- The Afghan press is one of the few success stories of foreign intervention in Afghanistan: the lively, relatively free press corps is made up of 9,000 journalists – around the same press saturation as the United States. Of these, approximately 2,000 are Afghan women.
- However, until we launched, there were no Afghan female reporters at the foreign news outlets in Kabul. This has been a systemic failure by the international press during one of the most important periods in Afghanistan’s recent history.
- It would be more consistent for English-language media that produce numerous stories on women’s rights to hire Afghan female reporters. In Afghanistan, due to strict cultural mores, most women cannot speak to most men.
- For global audiences, the Afghan woman’s story is being told by Afghan men, foreign men and foreign women. As the situation for women in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, the urgency of realising Sahar Speaks is greater than ever. It takes effort to recruit, train and encourage Afghan female journalists. It requires intentional investment. That is where Sahar Speaks steps in. The vision behind our programme can be seen in its name. “Sahar” is a common female name in Afghanistan, translating as “dawn.” Its meaning here is two-fold: it represents all Afghan women, and also heralds the beginning of a new era, where Afghan female reporters can tell their stories to the world. We hope to change the paradigm that has contributed to the marginalisation of women’s voices.
Afghan MP Shukria Barakzai for Sahar Speaks:
"Female journalists can shed light on dark corners where men can't"
*Photo and video: Joël van Houdt