Part of InternewsNext, a series highlighting 30 youth-led media initiatives.
Poetry has traditionally served as a source of expression and celebration in Afghanistan culture and society. The Afghan Youth Voices Festival, a year-round series of workshops and events supporting youth-driven media in Afghanistan, ran a nationwide poetry competition for hundreds of young poets last year, and the winning poems were published in an anthology, entitled “Voices of Peace.”
Zainab Safari, who won the competition, found the opportunity immensely rewarding. “I write because that is the only way I can express my feelings,” she said. "When I met other people at the Afghan Youth Voices Festival, I was encouraged to write more because I felt that I am not alone."
Afghan youth have been deprived of educational opportunities and forms of expression due to decades of political and economic turmoil. The Youth Voices Festival provides a forum for youth across the country to express themselves through art, poetry, photography, and a variety of new and traditional media tools. In 2011 alone, the Festival worked directly with over 2,000 young men and women, providing them with a crucial platform to amplify their voice.
To mark the release of the book and share the inspiring outcomes of the Festival, a poetry reading was recently held in Kabul.
Speaking in front of over 60 young people attending the poetry reading, Taimoor Shah Eshaqzai, Deputy Minister of Information and Culture for Youth Affairs, said: “I am so glad young people today are building peace through newly learned communication skills. They are the ones who will build and maintain the peace in this country.”
The Afghan Youth Voices Festival is implemented by Internews and local partners as part of the Afghanistan Media Development and Empowerment Project (AMDEP) funded by USAID.
In 2011, the Afghan Youth Festival produced "like a dream: AfghanistanThrough the Eyes of its Young People," a book featuring photography by Afghan youth.