September 29, 2023

From nature trips to shop opening: how Afghan girls spent summer holidays

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Lake Band-e-Amir, Afghanistan

Picture by: Carl Montgomery | Flickr

Afghanistan does not only mean crises and restrictions. It is a country filled with mesmerising landmarks, historical monuments, nature and a vibrant culture.

Five students of the journalism learning project at Harbingers’ Magazine in collaboration with LEARN Afghan project – Naziya (13), Swita (16), Mahwa (15), Zainab (13), and Shanhaza (17) – shared their various experiences during the summer holidays.

Naziya visited the city of Kandahar with her family. During the trip, she explored the city and its various landmarks. One of the activities that stood out for her most was undergoing a “culinary adventure.”

Being able to try new foods, fruits and spices that are not available in their hometown of Herat the trip became a memorable journey for Naziya and her family. They bonded over this new experience and “savoured the distinctive flavours of the region.”

Further north of Afghanistan is where Swita is living and enjoying her summer holidays. Together with her family, she took a roadtrip to the national park Band-e-Amir in Bamiyan. It was established in 2009, which marked the first Afghan initiative to protect its nature. The park preserves six lakes in the mountainous desert of central Afghanistan.

The vibrant dark blue of the lakes captivated Swita’s and all the visitors’ attention. The park was full of people from various provinces, exploring the beauty of the six lakes and its surroundings of “trees, beautiful flowers and small bushes”. Throughout this trip, Swita and her family made new friends and “took a lot of photos”, pointed out Swita.

Mahwa with her family visited Kabul and also explored the city of Bamiyan. Mahwa highlighted that this trip “was fantastic”. They explored the city from a historical perspective. They managed to see the statue of the Buddha, which represents Aryan civilization. As pointed out by Mahwa, this experience helped her realise “the importance of ancient culture and history.”

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  • Buddhas of Bamiyan, 544 AD | Picture by DVIDSHUB | Flickr

  • While Swita and Mahwa have managed to witness the beauty of the national park, women and girls are no longer able to do so after a ban was introduced on their ability to enter the Band-e-Amir premises on August 26. This was implemented due to women, according to Afghanistan’s acting minister of virtue and vice, Mohammad Khaled Hanafi, not wearing hijabs correctly.

    On the other hand, both Zainab and Shanhaza stayed in their towns, but nevertheless had a memorable summer.

    Zainab decided to enrol in a sewing class “taught by a lady in her home for a small fee”, she shared. They practised, worked and created. This was an opportunity for Zainab to not only explore her hobby further, but also a source of profit. This was a new opportunity for her that she was not going to miss out on. She pointed out in her recollecting of her summer:

    “As I gathered my sewing supplies, including colourful threads, fabrics, and patterns, I felt a renewed sense of purpose.”

    Shanhaza spent her days also busy with a new commitment – her own shop in the Craft Bazaar of Bamiyan.

    This idea came to her on a normal summer’s day – her grandmother was as per usual sewing and her mum was tailoring – when she decided to visit the Bazaar with her dad. There, she saw many women selling Afghan clothes. This is when she realised that this could be an opportunity for her to show her mother’s and grandmother’s hard work and make it a source of income.

    With the help of her father and family, she managed to set up her own shop, which welcomes many customers. She hopes that this experience will help her become a “good business woman.”

    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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