Seven years after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, women still find it challenging to work in many professions. But many have achieved a lot -- among them the press photographer Farzana Wahidy.
A photo by Farzana Wahidy: A woman fixes the curtain of her living room to shelter from the dust in Kabul
Farzana Wahidy is proud of the photo which brought her fame. It is now exhibited at the photography institute in Kabul. It shows a narrow street and the back of an old man in traditional dress. He is wearing a turban and pushing a wheelbarrow. There are ruins on both sides of the path, which seems to lead to nowhere.
„I took this picture in the old part of Kabul," she explains. "My teacher liked the photo and he showed it to everyone who visited our school."
Farzana Wahidy is 25 years old. Her mother died young and her father, who was a prisoner of war, is unemployed. She has always worked to support her studies and those of her three siblings. She says she became a photographer by chance:
„ I wasn’t at all interested in photography before. I wanted to be a journalist. I thought I could travel around as a journalist. I wanted to tell the world about the situation in Afghanistan. Above all, I wanted to be free and independent. I always had to work to support my family. One day, I found out about these film and photojournalism courses and I applied. I was 17 -- I thought they wouldn’t accept me because I was too young. So I changed the date of birth in my passport. Two weeks later I found out I had been accepted."
"Some don't like it at all"
Farzana Wahidy now works for Associated Press. She travels all over Afghanistan for her work. And although it is not always easy because of poor infrastructure and the ongoing conflicts, she is convinced that she is doing the right job.
The self-confident and ambitious 25-year-old is not afraid of daily confrontation with men whom she disagrees with either: „I do meet men who are happy when they see a woman working but there are also some who don’t like it at all", she says. "They say women should not be out in the public sphere, let alone with a camera. But I don’t care what they say. I ignore them and don’t let them get to me. I think I can do what I want!"
Her work can be very stressful both physically and psychologically: „I am always stressed when I go to places where there has been an attack", she admits. "All my childhood memories are marked by war. So I am always reminded of my childhood fears. When the bombs fell and people ran around in panic. I do my job of course but I’m always very down afterwards."
Farzana Wahidy’s determination and passion are the reason why her Afghan Women photo-documentation was awarded one of four National Geographic All Roads Photography grants in 2008. The grant recognises and supports talented indigenous and minority-culture filmmakers and photographers from around the world.