Lens, Pen, and a woman's perspective

Several years ago I was sent to Afghanistan on assignment and told to photograph women. In a country divided by gender, it was an opportunity to tell the other half of the story, since I was the first female photographer sent there from our paper. I was excited to report on a new program run by CARE to teach uneducated, illiterate widows a skill so they could support themselves and their families. I arrived at the poultry-raising class, their most successful, to find a room full of women engaged in the process of learning from other women, their burqas thrown back so their faces were visible, as is common when only females are present. The only trouble was that I had a male translator. The minute he entered the room, all the burqas were pulled back down to cover their faces - making it impossible for me to photograph them. Since I was also writing the story, the translator had to be present so I could get answers to my questions. After a few minutes of questioning passed, the women were so excited to talk about their program and their needs to me that all the burqas were thrown back again and their animated faces reappeared. They knew they had to go through him to communicate to me. Everyone forgot about gender; practicality ruled. I love the eagerness and energy in their faces - and above all, their courage.

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