October 20, 2023

‘Everyone needs hobbies’ - Afghan girls share what makes them happy

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After returning to power, the Taliban barred women from education, prompting activists to organise 'underground' classes for girls.

Picture by: LEARN | Facebook

Each and everyone of us has hobbies. It gives us a chance to develop our identity, our knowledge and form new connections.

Four students of the journalism learning project at Harbingers’ Magazine in collaboration with LEARN Afghan project – Mahwa (15), Zohra (17), Swita (16) and Shanhaza (17) – share their favourite hobbies, ranging from sports to reading and writing, and how it is helping with their own wellbeing.

Mahwa’s favourite hobbies are writing and reading. Her interest in this sparked in the 1st grade, when she first started writing and reading. Since then, she spends “all [her] free time writing and reading.” The 15 year-old wishes to turn this hobby into her profession as a writer.

As Mahwa points out, while “writing helps you to express your feelings and emotions through your words,” reading improves your ability to communicate with others. Her favourite types of books to read are Islamic and historical ones. She greatly enjoys reading Rahman Baba’s literary works. Rahman Baba is a philosopher and one of Pashto’s greatest poets. He delves into the themes of religion, morality and human relationships in his works. Mahwa’s favourite book is ‘Rahman Baba Kalam’.

“This book is full of poetry and I like it very much,” highlighted Mahwa.

With the development of technology, reading has become more accessible worldwide. Mahwa is able to get access to the literary texts through the internet, as well as receiving recommendations for new religious works to read in a WhatsApp group chat she is a part of.

Technology also enabled her to broaden her vocabulary more easily through Google translate. Reading “is one of the best hobbies ever since it allows you to gain knowledge and learn new things,” Mahwa described.

Mahwa does not only write to express herself in her diary, but also she writes stories for others – children. One of the stories she wrote was ‘Katia’s birthday’, which you can read at the end of this article.

“My writing hobby makes me productive every day. I never feel tired and bored while writing and reading."

Zohra (17) shares an equal passion to reading books as Mahwa. She enjoys all types of literary works, but is particularly interested in novels and poetry. Zohra shared that she always carries a novel with her and is able to share new ones among her friends. Poetry helps her “to enjoy and be happy.”

Swita (16) got inspired to start reading after seeing her friends and classmates enjoying this hobby at an early age too. From then on, she became interested in reading history and comic books.

Growing up with siblings gave her the chance to ask for help in reading or understanding words in the books. The now 16 year-old specifically remembers a day when she was in her room, reading comic books. “I couldn’t understand some statements and I brought it to my older sister and she read the comic book, she explained the passage of the story for me,” shared Swita.

Currently, she prefers to read motivational texts, like those written by Anthony Robbins, which sheds light on the values of life. One of the perspectives that Swita took away from her reading was that ‘we make our life and it depends on us’.

“During my reading, I found interesting and motivational sentences, which encouraged me to read more and more. I prefer books that make me smarter and more creative.”

While the others share a much more relaxed past-time, Shanhaza (17) prefers a more active lifestyle.

Her favourite hobby is playing volleyball with her sister and brother in their yard. She pointed out that to live a healthy lifestyle, you have to do some sports: “Those people who play sports are happier and younger than those who do not play sports.”

As French writer, Jules Verner, emphasised “movement is life.”

Whether this movement is manifested through sports or reading and writing, Afghan girls continue to develop themselves and look towards the future with ambition and hope.

‘Katia’s birthday’
by Mahwa (aged 15)

It was Katia’s 20th birthday and she was looking forward to seeing her friends. They were meeting at ‘Mama Mia’s’ her favourite Italian restaurant, for a special birthday dinner. Katia was excited and got to the restaurant at exactly 7 o’clock – the time they had arranged to meet. She looked around for a familiar face, but no one had arrived yet. So, she decided to wait outside and stood patiently in the warm evening sunshine.

The restaurant quickly filled up with customers, but none of them were Katia’s friends. “Where are they?”, she thought. At half past seven she was still waiting, so she called her best friend Isa. Katia asked herself: “Why isn’t she answering her phone?” Then she called Sarah, Alex and Elif but they didn’t answer either. “What’s going on?”, she wondered.

At 8 o’clock, she went home. Her friends had forgotten her birthday and she felt lonely and miserable. She opened the front door and walked into the dark house. The living room door was closed. “How strange…”, she thought because she always left it open. Nervously, she opened the door. Suddenly, the light went on and all her friends jumped up and shouted: “Surprise!” So, they hadn’t forgotten… In the end, it was the best birthday ever!

Written by:


OXSFJ & LEARN Afghan Project

Zainab, Shanhaza, Swita, Naziya, Mahwa and Zohra are learning journalism as part of joint efforts of the Oxford School for the Future of Journalism and LEARN Afghan.

Under the scheme, six Afghan girls aged 13-17 attend weekly journalism classes in English with OXSFJ’s instructors Sarah Hussain and Tatev Hovhannisyan.

The project is a trial aimed at researching and developing a curriculum answering the needs of underserved communities around the world and allowing them to safely contribute to Harbingers’ Magazine.

Edited by:


Sofiya Suleimenova

former International Affairs Section Editor

Geneva, Switzerland


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