A young Afghan activist champions the empowerment of girls and women

Caux Scholars Program 2017

31/07/2017
Caux Scholars Program 2017

 

Four years ago, she was the first girl to ride a bicycle in her neighborhood, in Kabul. Now, she is a 21-year-old championing the empowerment of young girls in Afghanistan. Sahar Fetrat was one of 20 participants in this year’s Caux Scholars Program (CSP), which ran for four weeks during the Caux Forum. CSP is an intensive training course on conflict analysis, transformation and resolution which aims to equip participants for resolving conflicts in their communities.

Sahar is not only a student. She is also a journalist and the founder of a documentary film company. She defines herself as an activist for women’s rights who believes in the power of storytelling. Most of her work involves advocacy and awareness about social issues affecting women, using videos to educate people in her country.

Like most Afghan girls, she experienced sexism, discrimination and harassment when she was young. ‘My family always felt concerned about women’s rights. My sister always told me about how women should claim their existence and go to places they were not allowed to go to,’ Sahar told me.

A big part of her inspiration also comes from her mother. ‘She was a feminist without knowing it. She taught us equality and never preferred our brother over us. She supported me in her limited way,’ Sahar explains.

She was 14 when she discovered the idea of feminism. She felt unequal that only boys could talk in front of the class, so she challenged it. ‘The teacher called me an angry feminist. I went to find the meaning of it and I loved the idea of being a feminist,’ Sahar says.

Every time she held a camera, she felt empowered to confront the men who would harass her by saying: ‘You will see yourself on the TV.` She has sparked debate and discussion among the media over the issue of women being harassed on the streets in their everyday life in Afghanistan.

That was how she was inspired to start her own production company. It aims to provide a safe platform for women to express their issues and get empowered through learning new technical filming skills that are usually reserved for men.

She is trying to break the stereotype that people who live outside the West don’t know about feminism. ‘I feel the responsibility to explain to people what feminism means to me, but I also feel that it’s time for people to educate themselves about it,’ Sahar says. 

‘People always claim that our biggest problem is being oppressed by the burqa. But Afghan women’s problem is not the burqa; our freedom is not measured by how long our skirts are. The challenges that we have are just about claiming existence,’ she adds.

Sahar hopes to spread her message and inspire other participants of the Caux Scholars Program to take action in creating a ‘global sisterhood network’ where girls can support each other. ‘At first when I started riding a bicycle in Kabul, people harassed me. But now girls ride bicycles with confidence. That’s a lot of hope,’ she says. ‘I feel that there is a strength. I believe in female power; the future will be better for young women,’ she concludes.

 

Featured Story
On

related stories

Summer Academy 2021 screenshot square

Forging a network of problem-solvers to build a secure and sustainable future

The Summer Academy on Climate, Land and Security 2021 brought together 29 participants from 20 countries. From Egypt and Senegal to the United States and Thailand, zoom windows opened for six hours ev...

Salima Mahamoudou 21 July 2021 FDFA workshop CDES 2021

Remaking a world in peril

The Caux Dialogue on Environment and Security (CDES) 2021 ran online from 20 July until 30 July, for the second consecutive year, comprising three open plenaries and seven workshops. This year’s discu...

CL 2021 Hope square

A Journey from Uncertainty to Possibility

2021’s Creative Leadership conference took participants on a six-day journey ‘From Uncertainty to Possibility’. Between 25 to 31 July around 150 online participants living in over 50 countries engaged...

FDFA Baobabcowherd-1 Noah Elhardt through WikiCommons square with logos

A pathway to peace and prosperity in West and Central Africa

In the context of their partnership, Initiatives of Change Switzerland (IofC) and the Peace and Human Rights division of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs organised a webinar on the them...

LPM report 2021 square

Peacemakers in the making

‘I am super happy to have been part of the Learning to be a Peacemaker course – we learned the true colours of Islam!’ wrote 18-year-old high-school graduate Nma Dahir, from Erbil, capital of the Kurd...

Choir Musical Stories

Musical Stories from Caux

‘What a magnificent presentation of stories and music’, commented one of the participants of the only in-person, by invitation, event of this year's Caux Forum Online which took place on 1 August 2021...

ICBE 2021 square white background

Sustainable businesses needs purpose beyond profit

Corporations and industries need a purpose beyond profit, says Sunil Mathur, the Managing Director and Chief Executive of Siemens in India and South Asia. ‘Companies’ purposes are critical,’ he explai...

Stephanie Buri and Nick Foster Opening Ceremony Caux Forum 2021

Opening Ceremony of the Caux Forum Online 2021: Swiss perspectives on peace

The Caux Forum Online 2021 opened on 5 July with a panel on ‘Swiss Perspectives on Peace – past, present and future’ to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Caux Conference and Seminar Centre as the ...

Dhanasree Jayaram CDES 2020

A closer look at links between environment and security

Food security is a key to understanding the complex connection between climate and security, Dhanasree Jayaram, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations Manipal...

Shrouk Gamal

'A better version of myself'

'The conference showed me how much I really love to socialize with people. The members of our dialogue group asked me questions I never been asked before. This made me think about lots of things, in n...

ZimbaWomen credit: ZimbaWomen

Empowering women to enter the market

The Co-founder of Zimba Women, Peace Kuteesa, is passionate about providing women with the tools and resources to participate in their economies and develop their communities. She spoke at last year's...

Hani Abou Fadel

'Humans are made of stories'

'This extraordinary conference has changed me to be more ambitious, intellectually honest and more consistent', said Hani Abou Fadel from Lebanon after his participation at last year's Creative Leader...

Harmen van Dijk

How to pursue personal development: 'Just start somewhere!'

Why would a diplomat throw in his career and give up a prestigious job to do something completely different? Find out what made Harmen van Dijk leave the Dutch diplomatic service to pursue a new dream...

CDES 2020 IofC Bards meditation bowl square

The art of making a difference to the climate crisis

‘Artists are uniquely positioned to face what is happening to the climate, to reimagine the world and create a new narrative,’ says Sveinung Nygaard (Sven), a Norwegian composer and musician. He was i...

Mohammed Abu-Nimer

Mohammed Abu-Nimer: Dialogue – Weaving peace into the fabric of society

Mohammed Abu-Nimer is Professor at the American University’s School of International Service in International Peace and Conflict Resolution in Washington DC and a Senior Advisor to the International D...