I am an Afghan Female Film Maker, But We Need More

By: Sahraa Karimi

Photo: Sahraa Karimi (R)

It’s a combination of increasing media coverage of Afghan women, negative conversations about Afghan women on social media platforms, March being women’s history month, and the recent realization about my voice and stake in all of this that has encouraged me to write today.

I find Afghan women amazing and I want them to be projected as who they are, not what they should be or not be. In the past, when I read or listen to media outlets’ coverage of Afghan women, they often project our image in a cliché. I became so fed up of Afghan women being portrayed by stereotypes. This is not how I want my grand-kids or the next generation to recognize Afghan women. I am an Afghan woman, artist, storyteller, writer, and I know my society. I have the ability to tell untold stories that resonate with the reality of Afghan women.

As an artist, I appreciate different angles of a story and the process of creating a narrative. I am one of the few artists who has traveled to multiple provinces in Afghanistan to engage with the women of Afghanistan in their ordinary life. Recently, I was blessed to travel to Badakhshan, Uruzgan, Dekundi, Gardez, Logar, Parwan, Khost, Paktia, Nagarhar, Balkh, Bamian, Takhar, and Qandahar through UNECIF. As a storyteller, it was important for me to engage with Afghan women for days to best grasp their daily reality. In my work I project ordinary Afghan women making daily decisions regardless of the war. I love the ordinary moments, maybe because I’ve experienced such extremes in Afghanistan.

Most recently, I embarked on journey where I produced independently and directed in Afghanistan. My new film is called ‘Hava, Maryam, Ayesha.’ This is a story about three Afghan women living in Kabul, each coming from different social and religious backgrounds. Hava, a traditional woman, lives with her husband’s family. Despite being eight months pregnant, she has to do all the house chores as well as taking care of her in-laws. Her husband and his family don’t care about Hava’s situation and her only joy is talking to the baby in her womb. Maryam is an educated journalist who wants to get a divorce from her unfaithful husband. Meanwhile, after seven long years of wanting to have a baby she finally finds out that she’s pregnant. Ayesha is an 18 year old girl who has always desired to get married for love. She becomes pregnant from her boyfriend who disappears after hearing the news. She accepts to marry her cousin, meanwhile trying to find a doctor to perform an abortion and regain her virginity.

My creations display struggle, desire, strength, will power, curiosity, love, and hope. This is what I want to display, that our struggles are not a weakness, our will power transforms society, and our curiosity can help us evolve against all odds.

A woman is a human being, with our own philosophy, happiness, sadness, anger, pain etc. We should be projected as such. Since there is no major cinema industry in Afghanistan, the short coming Afghan women filmmakers face is the lack of resources to project our image to the world.

This women’s history month, I have been so impressed with the number of female artists revealing their work and stating and echoing messages of progress, revitalizing the strength of Afghan women and re-imaging realities. I hope this continues and wish for a strong sisterhood amongst us.


Sahraa Karimi is an award winning filmmaker. She completed her PhD in Fiction Film Directing and Screen Writing at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts, Film and TV Faculty in Bratislava Slovakia. She has created more than 30 shorts fiction and documentary films, and produced two long documentaries. ” Hava, Maryam, Ayesha” is first fiction feature film, which she has made inside Afghanistan and has produced independently. She tweets @Sahraakarimi


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