The short guidebook was written in response to the fact that 87% of women in Afghanistan have faced verbal, physical and/or sexual violence at home. Yet too often, women feel alone in their struggle for financial independence and freedom from emotional, physical and sexual abuse. The tragic reality is that there are systematic efforts in Afghanistan to keep women at home and prevent their full participation in society. Everywhere they turn, legal and economic barriers are in place for women seeking justice, divorce, and custody. Rampant sexism further stigmatizes women survivors of sexualized violence and keeps survivors’ stories from being heard.
You Are Not Alone is part of the antidote, an Afghan version of Chicken Soup for the Soul. It is a collection of stories written and inspired by four years’ worth of conversations with Afghan women facing gender-based violence. The comforting food-for-thought comes in the form of checklists with concrete steps to take and advice on how women can help themselves, seek legal aid, find support, and protect their mental health.
A guide like this is unprecedented in Afghanistan and comes at a crucial time to enable Afghan women to add their voices to the international #MeToo movement. Culturally-taboo issues such as marital rape and child abuse are discussed while myths about the drivers of violence are debunked.
While it is written for women in Afghanistan, I believe You Are Not Alone is incredibly important for women worldwide to read. Gender-based violence is a global issue, and though it differs in extent and form in different contexts, many of its drivers are the same. The lessons from this book are universal. Until we start sharing stories with one another and until we reassure one another that what we’re going through is not our fault, then the cycle of violence will continue unchallenged.
With this book, Free Women Writers collective prove once again that the pen is mightier than the sword and that sisterhood can save lives. By sharing stories of encouragement and support, Free Women Writers reassure women that if you are a survivor of violence, it is not your fault. Every woman has the right to live happily and to feel safe and respected. Every woman deserves a chance to live a life free from violence and fear.
Every reader of You Are Not Alone can contribute to promoting respect for women and fighting violence against women. All members and contributors to Free Women Writers are volunteers, so 100 percent of proceeds from the book go to funding scholarships and more empowering resources for Afghan women.
January 29, 2018