Afghan women are back in the spotlight



Afghan women have taken part in this year’s Emmy nominations for the first time ever

One of the many professional women’s voices there has been in the comments section beneath my articles on CNN.com, on social media sites and on YouTube has been a woman living in Afghanistan.

My dear friend and colleague turned personal acquaintance, Begum, used to add an interesting perspective to everything I wrote and every video I posted.

Now, two years ago, she stepped into the light a little too much, only to have it violently take her down again. Begum has since joined another country and found a new home. But the world of electronic media seems to be hers.

Earlier this year I posted a video of an Afghan woman having a C-section in her home. She was pregnant and preparing for the surgery. The doctor then brought in a man to take care of her while the medics were away.

When I filmed the woman in her home, the man could be seen holding her hand while the door was still shut. It was the only way she could be comforted while the operation took place.

Eventually, the doctor removed the baby. Then the woman herself came out. I reported on this story and Begum’s reaction was my version of an email from a Latina woman in New York City.

She spoke with verve, but also a touch of sadness:

“You have the woman’s sentiments. Women here endure violence and abuse in such an everyday way that one might be willing to ignore. They are ineffectual … they don’t know how to fight back.”

Begum had let her friend know exactly how she felt.

“Most of the message came from Begum herself, and she listened attentively as I explained it,” I wrote. “She said that if it had been her relative who was having the operation, she would have wanted someone to help her.”

In the following week, Begum told me that she was proud to be Afghan. “It is not a given that she will be in this country forever. And it is not a given that she will be able to defend herself.”

For Begum, the ordeal was not over. One day, when my husband and I were on vacation in Morocco, she wrote to me about her compatriots:

“The hardest part for me is seeing these women come under the same fear and stress as me, my daughters and grandchildren back home.”

I have come to know that my dear friend and colleague has become quite the seasoned interviewer of Afghan women. But I have also heard some of her personal confessions, and have seen something of her other life, which began when she was nine.

I now know that this is a woman who has never let other women in their time of need. When we look in the Internet comments section beneath my articles, we often get our daily dose of Afghan women defending their children and their dignity.

I also know that Begum knows that Afghan women have come far in the recent years, and that, though much work is still to be done, they now have something to look forward to.

I understand that they may be in a dark place, and that these women must be vulnerable to monsters, but they are telling their story to the world for all to hear.

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