Noorjahan Akbar , Afghanistan
Noorjahan founded Free Women Writers as a platform for Afghan women to share their experiences and challenge the status quo where Afghan women are often talked about but rarely heard from. Run by a collective of Afghan women writers and students, Free Women Writers is an online publication dedicated to telling the authentic stories of Afghan women. 130 contributors publish content that is read by over 100,000 unique readers each month. Today in Afghanistan, 87% of women have faced gender-based violence. More than 75% of marriages are either early (before 18 years old) or forced. Even after more than a decade of advocacy and investment in education, only one in ten Afghan girls graduate high school. Free Women Writers works to make sure women in Afghanistan have the opportunity to raise their voices and tell their own stories to drive cultural change. Most submissions are published in the Afghan languages of Persian and Pashto on a Facebook blog, with some recent works being translated into English for publication on the website. Free Women Writers also campaigns on women’s issues in Afghanistan. One example is a successful campaign they lead to prevent the Government of Afghanistan from imposing restrictive uniforms on school girls around the country. In addition to the blogs and online publication, Noorjahan published a book of Afghan women's writings in Persian in 2013 called "Daughters of Rabia" that was distributed to six provinces around the country and has been read by thousands of Afghans. Free Women Writers also provide a scholarship to one Afghan woman each year to help her pursue higher education inside the country.