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Seeking to Spark “New Conversations,” Young Afghan Women Create Women’s Magazine

The editor of Afghanistan’s new women’s magazine knows that her publication, Gellera, which features fashion tips alongside information about women’s health and legal rights, may be met with criticism from some within Afghanistan. But, Fatana Hassanzada, 23, is not deterred. “Without agitation, we won’t reach an equilibrium,” she told the New York Times.

Hassanzada, with a team of a dozen young female volunteers and two paid freelance designers, launched Gellera last week after five months of development. Its first print run of 2,000 copies was paid for by a advertisement in the magazine. The team anticipates finding other advertisers, so the staff can draw salaries.

The idea for the magazine came from a book club meeting that Hassanzada attended with several young Afghans. The club, made up mostly of women but also some men, usually meets at a cafe in Kabul or at Kabul University. They discuss novels but also philosophy and current events. The club felt that their conversations should not be limited just to their small group or to the Afghan elite, so they decided to start a magazine that would appeal to a broader audience of Afghan women.

Hassanzada hopes to reach educated young women throughout Afghanistan with her magazine. According to the Afghan Central Statistics Organization, 21 percent of students enrolled in public universities in Afghanistan are now women. Hassanzada tells the New York Times that these women, those who have now graduated from universities, and even girls in high school are her target audience. She says the magazine will focus on feminism as a theme, while giving its audience a broad range of information.

“We know our shared pain,” Ms. Hassanzada said. “And it becomes a social responsibility to get the basic information that those women need, for their lives and thoughts, into their homes. Women’s issues, inside their home.”

Women entrepreneurs like Hassanzada are becoming more common in Afghanistan despite continuing safety concerns. “When you think of business in Afghanistan, most of it is run by men,” said Arifa Paikar, a lecturer and professor at Kabul University, commenting on the state of women-owned businesses in Afghanistan. “But recently, women’s recognition is growing, and the international community is paying close attention to women, which makes our work more credible. In the past, the women were left out of the decision-making process, but now Afghan women know they can take part in the political and economic process.”

Media Resources: New York Times 5/21/17; TruthDig 5/23/17; USAID

 

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