FARAH, Afghanistan -- While female reporters officially are not allowed to work in Afghanistan, they have informally continued their media-related activities.
They go to their offices and continue recording their programmes to safeguard the achievements of the past two decades and to continue developing their media skills.
The recorded programmes go into an archive in the hope that someday women's voices may be heard on live radio again. Prohibitions on broadcasting women's voices rolled across the country in late 2021.
While women have been forced to stay at home for more than a year, female reporters defying the new situation come to the radio station to rehearse and record their programmes, said Humaira Mohammadi, director of Radio Nawai Zan in Farah city.
Radio Nawai Zan has programmes specifically for women, and all its workers are female. The station broadcasts for 12 hours every day.
Although women's voices on live programmes are prohibited, the station is still able to broadcast female-narrated, pre-recorded programmes sponsored by the United Nations and other NGOs.
"We have eight staff members at the radio [station], all of whom are educated and experienced women," Mohammadi said. "They come to the radio because they are interested in media work."
"Before [August 2021] we had 18 hours of daily broadcasting of different programmes, but after that, broadcasting women's voices was not allowed," she said. "Despite this, women and girls come to the radio [station] and are hopeful that their voices will be permitted again to go out on the air."
By producing and broadcasting programmes specifically for women, the objective of female reporters in Farah is to ensure women's voices are not silenced.
"Our goal is to make women aware of their rights and teach them to have a better life," Mohammadi said. "We teach families through our programmes to respect the rights and demands of women."
Raising women's voices
Farhangaiz Noorzai, 22, comes to Radio Nawai Zan with great enthusiasm and records the Sadai-zan programme. She invites active women to the programme and discusses the current situation of Afghan women and girls.
Noorzai said she hosts this programme to reflect the problems and demands of women in Farah.
"Hosting and raising the voice of women and girls are my right, and I should have this right," she said. "I want to be able to work like before and stand next to girls and women from my province."
"Unfortunately the voices of women and girls have been silenced in Farah," Noorzai said. "I want to be their voice through my programmes. I want to reflect their demands and wishes through radio."
Forozan Abubakar, a programme host at Radio Nawai Zan, said her job and that of her colleagues are to be the voice of women and girls who cannot raise their voices and share their problems.
Having studied economics, she hosts programmes specifically discussing economic development and jobs for women.
"My demand is that women be allowed to work in their preferred fields and expand their capabilities," she said.
"We want to be role models for other women and girls so they can also work alongside men and be part of their country's future, free from gender apartheid," Abubakar said.
She said she is very hopeful that she will soon be able to continue her work normally, like in the past.
Respecting women's rights
Women in Farah demand respect for their work, education and capacity to contribute to society.
"Women and girls gained knowledge in recent years and have skills and experience in different fields," said Marzia Noorzai, a women's rights activist in Farah city.
"It is better to give them the opportunity to work outside their homes instead of making them stay home," she said. "If educated women are forced to stay home longer, they will be depressed and lose hope."
"Because of restrictions, many women try to leave Afghanistan," she added. "Who will work in Afghanistan and build society if educated women leave?"
If women are forced to stay home and their talents are ignored, all their achievements and capabilities will be destroyed. The capabilities of Afghan women and girls should not be undermined, said Noorzai.
In the current situation, there is a need for women and girls to be allowed to work, said Parwana Toofan, another women's rights activist in Farah city.
"Women are a strong arm of society and form half of the population," she said. "A strong arm of society should not be paralysed."
"When a woman is economically self-sufficient, then 50% of the family's economic problems are resolved," she said. "Many women lost their husbands in the war and are heads of their families. If they do not work, then what should they eat?"