The documentary film, Miss Representation, came out in 2011, yet it remains shockingly resonant today in 2020. The film exposes how mainstream media and culture contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. As an American woman, Miss Representation strongly resonates with me, but its message is relevant to women and girls everywhere.
Women make up roughly 50% of our global population but still face significant human rights challenges, including some which are less visible but equally damaging such as gender bias in institutions like the media. Cassie, our Women’s Section Editor, reminds us of the women’s rights issues that were important to us in 2019.
Afghanistan is one of the world’s most challenging places for female education and because of that, all-female groups such as Zohra and the Afghan Girls Robotic Team are leading the way for women’s rights there.
In the summer of 2017, the Afghan Girls Robotic Team travelled to Washington D.C. to take part in a robotics competition at international level.
Their invention, a robot that can tell if water is clean or contaminated, earned them a silver medal for “courageous achievement” – but the real courage came in getting to the competition.
After the girls had set off on their 500 mile journey from their home in Herat to the U.S. embassy in Kabul, they were denied U.S. visas when they got there – no reason was given.
After international outcry, the girls were granted special status by the U.S. government and allowed in.
They later went on to win out the biggest robotics festival in Europe and have gained huge support internationally by inspiring many girls to pursue their dreams in the face of hardship.
Zohra, named after a Persian goddess of music, are a group of 30 women who together form an orchestra that have played at prestigious events like the 2017 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.
However, back in Afghanistan, their talent isn’t recognised, and could even be life-threatening.
Afghanistan was once an epicentre of creativity and had a musical history of over 1000 years – this changed dramatically after the Soviet invasion in 1979 and the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
Strict Taliban policies, which included a ban on music, saw the deaths of several musicians while others migrated to escape the cruel treatment.
Although the ban was lifted after the Taliban rule ended, large parts of Afghan society still frown on music. The Zohra girls, like the Afghan Girls Robotic Team, have then become models and leaders for women’s rights and human rights worldwide.
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Image courtesy of All Jazeera via Twitter.