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Written on October 9th, 2013 , Arts in Community, Theatre for Social Change Tags: , , ,

I write this on my last day in Kabul, where for the past 10 days I have had the honor and joy of working with children at the Afghan Mobile Mini Children’s Circus and being a supporting team member for Eva Vander Giessen in Afghan Friends Network meetings. I have been able to wear bright clothes, walk by myself to the circus in the morning or home at midday, and been to restaurants where men and women are allowed to eat together (although they are uncommon, and are generally referred to as ‘restaurants for foreigners’, even if mostly Afghans are there). Girls go to school in Kabul, and I have met AFN scholarship students, men and women, who are studying engineering, art, medicine, and so much more in Kabul’s many universities.

However, it is best if women are in pairs or more, and it would be very very dangerous to go out on foot after dark. A German woman I have met is careful not to take the same routes all the time, as sometimes foreign women can be ‘tracked’–I am grateful to look somewhat local (I have been mistaken at first glance for being from here), but I am careful not to make eye contact with men, to physically step out of their way, to shield my face from too much attention especially when I am walking alone.

Kabul is a dynamic place where change is happening, albeit slowly. The provinces, the villages, and so on, are another story entirely, almost like another country. There is tremendous pressure to keep women from becoming educated, often to keep them from ever leaving the house, and these two ideas converge in the suppression of women voting. The pictures following are from Bond Street Theatre, and used with permission.

Bond Street Theatre is fostering an incredible Women’s Theatre Company in Afghanistan for women to reach out to other women —including performances in their homes—to make them aware of their rights and the importance of voting. As Artistic Director Joanna Sherman said, “Theatre brings crucial information to life.”

So, here in Kabul, I am encouraging you to learn about and hopefully support this incredibly important project!I quote Bond Street’s Blog “On the Road” :

This is a time of hope and possibility. A new generation is voting for the first time in Afghanistan, and half of them are women. Women’s right to vote is a hard-earned victory, and yet many women are unaware of their right to vote.This is a time for crucial change. In the past decade, women have made great strides, setting Afghanistan on a promising course. But conservative factions are working hard to reverse these advances and prevent women from enjoying the most basic human rights.

Bond Street Theatre has been working for Afghan women for more than 10 years. We trained four women’s theatre groups to create theatre — by women, for women — to spread the word about women’s right to vote, why each vote counts, and how to register. They are a first in Afghanistan!

These women are role models: they encourage women and girls to speak out. Theatre shows like these have a ripple effect through the community and a huge impact. In order to reach as many women (and men) as possible, we must raise $10,000.

Visit our Indiegogo page Afghan Women Speak Out through Theatre to contribute!

Women’s voice in government and participation in the election is essential to protect and advance their rights!

“This theatre project has given me new courage to speak out!”

(Ayesha, member of Nangarhar Women’s Theatre troupe in Jalalabad.)

More about this Bond Street program (from a press release, used with permission):

Bond Street Theatre has been working toward peace and social improvement in Afghanistan since 2002 through programs that build the capacity of local organizations and promote creative thinking and problem-solving, especially focusing on women and youth. The Election Fraud Mitigation project builds on BST’s 2010-2012 Theatre for Social Development program, which provided artistic and practical business training to prepare local theatre groups to use their skills for public education.

The six troupes will present 70+ performances in multiple provinces between August 2013 and April 2014. Elections are scheduled for April 5, 2014. Performances are followed by direct activities with the audience to explore potential solutions to voting issues. The goal of the project is to use interactive, mobile performances to educate the electorate on the value of a strong, legitimate government achieved by a fair election process and effective fraud prevention strategies.”

How awesome is THAT?!?!?!?

Please at least check it out—the news media is so very seldom about this kind of incredible work.


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    Holly left an imprint on everyone we met in Kabul. So many foreigners are scared, cautious, conservative. And although Holly is mindful of what flies and what offends, she is one of the rare people in this world who connects across any distance. She brought out the best in everyone we met with – and recognized their strengths so they could network best with each other. Many of the Afghan women, men and children I get to work with express worry that Americans will “forget about them.” I’m so grateful to you, Holly, for building bridges between people around the world – and between Afghans themselves – through your contagious creativity and respect for your fellow human beings. I’m truly honored to have been among our Afghan friends with you… and hope to attempt juggling with 8-year olds many more times together in Kabul.

    November 21, 2013 at 7:44 pm