While the unfairness of the male dominated society and the injustice toward women in this world, continues to be hot topic of debate in the subcontinent, Zarghuna Kargar, in her book Dear Zari, highlights the plight of women in Afghanistan
This meet-up will be an eye opener for everyone who takes their freedom for granted. The format of the meet-up will be similar to the other "Meet the Author" meet-ups. We will start with a general Q&A about the Author and her book, then expand the discussion to broader issues such as Women’s equality, Afghanistan and how to change the world.
Dear Zari: Hidden Stories from Women of Afghanistan
Is Zarghuna's first book, available as a paperback and on Kindle, only 280 pages of simple, captivating text, so should be easy to read before the meet-up.
Zarghuna Kargar was born in Kabul in 1982, at which time her father was minister for information. When the Mujahideen came to power they fled for Pakistan for refuge.
Zarghuna completed her education in Peshawar in Pakistan: she studied at a refugee university and attended a journalism course organised by the BBC. Then in 2001 her family sought asylum in the UK, and she started working for the BBC World Service Pashto Section. She joined the team on the ground-breaking programme Afghan Woman's Hour as producer and presenter in 2004, until it was discontinued in 2010.
Zarghuna now works on current affairs programmes for the BBC Afghan Service, frequently covering topics relating to women's issues. Zarghuna is part of the Girl Rising project, dedicated to educating girls around the world - http://girlrising.com/. She lives in London.
More about her life:
Moving, enlightening, heart-breaking - Dear Zari gives voice to the secret lives of women across Afghanistan and allows them to tell their stories in their own words: from the child bride given as payment to end a family feud; to a life spent in a dark, dusty room weaving carpets; to a young girl being brought up as a boy; to life as a widow shunned by society. Intimate, emotional, often painful but at times uplifting, these thirteen stories uncover how the customs of this deeply religious and intensely traditional society can cause real suffering for many women.
'Dear Zari' is Zarghuna Kargar, an Afghan woman now living in London, with an incredible story of her own; growing up in war-torn Kabul, she and her family fled to Pakistan shortly before the Taliban took power, and in 2001 Zarghuna moved to the UK to begin a new life. Presenting the BBC World Service programme Afghan Women's Hour, Zarghuna was part of a profoundly influential project that gave support, education and encouragement to millions of women and men across Afghanistan. For several years Afghan Women's Hour aired discussions, covering difficult - often taboo - subjects, and Zarghuna heard from hundreds of women eager to share their stories. It is these life stories which have inspired her to write this book. She is a brave and compassionate advocate for these women, and gives hope and reassurance to so many by bringing their experiences into the light for the first time.
The Review – (From the independent)
In recent years, the lot of many Afghan women has improved considerably, but their repression continues unabated in certain parts of the country. Arranged marriages are still the norm and many women are denied a basic education.
As Zarghuna Kargar notes in her absorbing collection of life stories: "Cultural roots run deep in Afghanistan and many people believe in them completely, often more than they do in Islamic faith."
The stories are drawn from the radio programme Afghan Women's Hour, produced by Kargar from 2004 to 2010, and they cover such controversial issues as the "exchange" and sale of child brides, rape, honour and virginity, and the pressures on women to produce a son. Some of the most poignant stories are those of the widows and divorced women, who find themselves shunned by their own families: "Becoming a widow in a traditional society like Afghanistan means you lose the right to talk freely, you lose the right to put on make-up and dress up."
In certain parts of Afghanistan, women are not allowed to work outside the home, so they become carpet weavers. Samira's story describes how their babies are sedated with opium to allow the women to concentrate on their work.
One of the most heartbreaking stories is Wazma's account of the disintegration of what had been a happy marriage after she loses a leg in a rocket attack. She discovers that her husband no longer wants her when he realises she is permanently disabled, claiming she is unfit to look after their daughter.
Kargar's family was forced to leave Kabul during the civil war and interwoven throughout the book are reflections on her own experiences: the childhood trauma of living though conflict (after witnessing a school friend's death, Kargar was given electroconvulsive therapy for depression); life as a refugee in Pakistan and Britain; and an unhappy arranged marriage followed by a painful divorce.
All the stories in Dear Zari illustrate the suffering caused by deeply ingrained Afghan traditions. Although women now have a voice – there are more than 60 female members of parliament – boys continue to be valued more than girls, parents still force their daughters into marriages, and most women remain dependent on the men in their family. But their bravery and resilience shines though and Kargar touchingly reveals how hearing others' life stories finally gave her the courage to share her own.
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