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Afghan women 'gaining skills' in creative writing project

Published 15/09/2015

The project involves working with women in Afghanistan via Skype
The project involves working with women in Afghanistan via Skype

Afghan women have been given a voice thanks to a Belfast-based creative writing project.

The initiative, entitled Afghan Women Spread The Word, aims to create an online archive of their experiences including audio interviews, short stories and poems.

Former BBC journalist Julia Paul, now a broadcast lecturer at Queen's University who developed the programme, said: " These women act as a glimmer of hope for others - perhaps they weren't previously visible in society, but are now gaining skills, confidence and jobs - it's been an amazing project to be part of."

The project was started in 2013 when Ms Paul travelled to Afghanistan.

She added: "Initially I went out to Kabul to establish connections between women from different ethnic groups and trained them to use handheld recorders to collect oral histories from women in their area.

"The second and now third stage involves working with these same women via Skype, concentrating on using the initial interviews as the catalyst to write a creative piece, a poem or story, ultimately leading to some kind of online archive for future generations."

Belfast's first poet laureate Sinead Morrissey has also been involved leading a three-day workshop, via Skype technology, for aspiring female writers in Kabul.

Ms Paul said: "Afghan women have a huge tradition of knowing poems by heart, and have such a passion and hunger for writing. They see people like Sinead, an influential woman, and are excited that she is interested in what they have to say.

"I think we can all learn a lot from each other, and how to heal through reconciliation.

"I love the idea that writing about trauma can be a therapeutic tool and help a society move forward."

The project has also been supported by the British Council in Belfast and Kabul.

David Alderice, director of British Council Northern Ireland said: " Creative and critical examination is fundamental to progress and I'm sure both countries will benefit from this wonderful initiative."

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