NoorjahanAkbar

One Young World Profile profiles

Noorjahan Akbar

Studies:
American Unviersity

I am passionate about

I am most passionate about elevating the voices of young and marginalized Afghan women and men who are willing to be allies in our fight for equality. Today in Afghanistan, 87% of women have faced gender-based violence. More than 75% of marriages are either early (before 18) or forced. Even after more than a decade of advocacy and investment in education, only one in ten Afghan girls graduates high school. Women activists, police officers, politicians, journalists and leaders often face discrimination, violence, character assassination and death threats. In fact, many of my own friends, activists and journalists, have had to leave the country to protect their lives. We can't go on like this. In order for the situation of women in Afghanistan to change, local Afghan voices should be elevated and the stories of women at the grassroots level must be heard. I believe our stories and voices can be effective tools for advocacy. That is why I am passionate about making sure women in Afghanistan have the opportunity to raise their voices and tell their own stories to drive cultural change. In addition, by living abroad and traveling around the world, I've seen how Afghan women are often talked about and rarely heard from. I want to change that and make sure it is our own voices that drives policy and media and that our representation is accurate, empowering and humane, not victimizing and belittling.

Actions

In 2013, I founded Free Women Writers. Run by a collective of Afghan women writers and students, FWW is an online publication dedicated to telling the authentic stories of Afghan women. We have twelve volunteer members- six in Afghanistan and six in the diaspora- and 125 contributors, most of whom are inside the country. Because we are driven by the grassroots and our main audience is our own people, most of our work is on a Facebook blog in Afghan languages of Persian and Pashtu that reaches 48K Afghans every week, however we recently also started translating some of our work to English and making it available on our website at www.freewomenwriters.org. In addition to being the only women's website focused on Afghan women's issues at home and in the diaspora, we are advocates for equality. We use our stories to urge for change in policy and practice and deter patriarchy. Most recently we led a successful campaign to prevent the Government of Afghanistan from imposing restrictive uniforms on school girls around the country. In addition to the blogs and online publication, I 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. At Free Women Writers, we also provide a yearly scholarship to an Afghan woman who is pursuing her higher education inside the country. We currently have two scholarship recipients.