Like a bird with broken wings

Afghan Women Oral History

This report aims to document Afghan women’s experiences of violence over thirty years of conflict from 1978 to 2008 / 1357-1387 through „oral history‟. Oral history involves the collection of memories and personal histories of historical significance through recorded interviews. Due to its dynamic and evolving nature, there is no one single correct way of doing oral history. Oral history projects can play a particularly important role in providing a voice to those denied a place in official history, such as those in societies that have experienced conflict, dictatorship and the marginalisation of minorities.

Previous efforts to document the conflict in Afghanistan have largely focused on individual incidents, patterns of violations, a particular perpetrator group/regime or a given temporal frame. There have been few attempts to focus solely on the experiences of Afghan women, and women‟s experiences have not been prominent in existing documentation efforts. One of the reasons for this relates to difficulties in accessing female witnesses. Due to cultural sensitivities regarding women‟s interaction with men from outside their immediate family, it can be difficult to obtain testimonies from women unless female researchers conduct the interviews. Even when female interviewers are used, accessing women in an environment in which they are afforded privacy and have the ability to discuss issues such as gender-based violence can still be a challenge. Some women are unwilling to discuss their experiences due to the perception that they are shameful or believe that this is their private domain and therefore difficulties within the family should stay within the family. Some women may not feel entitled to discuss their experiences with anyone. Others may fear the repercussions of doing so, either from their family or those in power.


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Languages available: English

Bibliographic information

Geographic coverage: Afghanistan

Subject area(s): Access to justice post-conflict; Conflict, war; Sexual violence in conflict; Access to justice and legal protection; Rape/sexual assault

Resource type: Case studies

Publication year: 2013

Number of pages: 74

Publishing entities: United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women)