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ArtWORKS Exhibit Highlights Challenges and Opportunities for Afghan Women and Girls

Article by Sara Van Wie March 26, 2013 //   3 minute read

The Bush Institute’s Afghan Women’s Project spotlights the struggles and successes of Afghan women by telling their personal stories, publishing briefings and reports, and highlighting beneficial projects.

Women Between War and Peace: Afghanistan”, an exhibit organized by Chicago-based Art Works Projects, went on display on March 14 in the Rayburn Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.  Congresswoman Donna Edwards, member of the US-Afghan Women’s Council and co-chair of the bipartisan Afghan Women’s Task Force, sponsored the exhibit, which provided powerful, visual reminders of the complex and diverse realities for Afghan women in the areas of education, health, political participation, employment and security. 

Art Works targets political stakeholders by using art and design to raise awareness of the challenges to human rights throughout the world.  “Our job is to distill information into images that pull on our common sense of humanity,” said Leslie Thomas, Executive Director of Art Works Projects. “In ‘Women Between War and Peace: Afghanistan’, together with local women’s groups, we have selected a large range of images to show a large range of challenges.”

One photograph shows the acid burns on the face of a young girl attacked by the Taliban as she walked to school, but another shows a female member of Parliament confidently casting a vote.  Another picture captures two women in traditional blue burkas waiting on a desolate mountain road for transport to a hospital, while another shows a midwife administering painkillers to a woman in labor.  “That is the story of Afghan women – that mixed picture that comes from Afghanistan,” said Wazhma Frogh, International Women of Courage Award winner and co-founder of Afghanistan’s first research institute on women, peace and security. 

In a discussion hosted by the United States Institute of Peace, Hossai Wardak, senior expert on Afghanistan and deputy director for Afghan nonprofit Equality for Peace and Democracy, emphasized that Afghanistan has experienced significant gains in the past decade, but that there is still much work to be done.  According to Frogh, progress in women’s rights is experiencing significant backlash and positions in government ministries reserved for women remain unfilled because of fear of violence.  Continued international and U.S. support of programs supporting Afghan women, their education, economic empowerment and participation in peace processes and political transitions are vital. 

ArtWorks “Women Between War and Peace: Afghanistan” provides a powerful tool to stimulate discussion and support for these actions. See the online slideshow here.

This post was written by Sara Van Wie, Research Associate for the Afghan Women’s Project with the Women’s Initiative.


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