A girl holds up her hand - the palm is painted purple.

Afghan Youth in Action

October 12, 2017
Girl bikers, young photographers and advocacy campaigns are some of the highlights of the Afghan Youth Voices Festival.

Young people in Afghanistan participated in a series of activities comprised of trainings, cultural events, media development and advocacy campaigns as part of the annual Afghan Youth Voices Festival.

Highlights of the Festival, which took place in five provinces from March through August 2017, included a media campaign by the Kabul Girls Bike Riders and a photo exhibition called, Afghanistan through the Eyes of Youth.

Kabul Girl Bike Riders

Although women in Afghanistan are not officially banned from riding bicycles, it is still frowned upon. But as free-style biking has become popular there, especially in Kabul, young women are joining in even when their families disapprove.

Two Afghan girls on bikes in a skateboard park.
Girls in Afghanistan have become interested in the sport of freecycling. Credit: Kabul Girl Bike Riders

Through a social media workshop at the Festival, six female trainees created a Facebook page called Kabul Girl Bike Riders, with the aim of raising awareness of harassment and violence toward girls, which prevents them from public participation in cultural and recreational activities.

Three girls on bikes on a circular road. Mountains in the background.
The girl bikers believe that, as the community gets used to seeing women on bikes, it will become more normalized. Credit: Kabul Girl Bike Riders
A young woman wearing a headscarf sits on her bike in a dirt area.
Some women have been physically assaulted when riding a bike. The Kabul Girls Bike Riders are hoping their media campaign starts to change perceptions. Credit: Kabul Girl Bike Riders

Afghanistan Through the Eyes of Youth

Another component of the Festival was a photo exhibition that featured winning images from the 2016 Festival. The photos were taken by youth from all five provinces.

Five girls stand in a circle with their hands together, placed on top of each other.
Many of the photos reflect aspirations for peace and security. Credit: AYVF participant.

The photographers participated in workshops where they learned skills such as the characteristics of a good photo, light, framing, and how to take photos with mobile phones.

A young woman bends over picking up a mud brick.
In Nangarhar Province, a young girl helps in her family’s business. Credit: Sifurahman Safi, AYVF 2017 participant.

The goals of the photography trainings were to highlight positive changes in Afghanistan through youth, as well as producing photos for advocacy campaigns on issues such as drug use, migration and unemployment.

Boys place soccer outside a historic site.
Young people play soccer at the historic Buddhas of Bamyan. Credit: Abdullah Sadaqat.

See more images on the AYVF 2017 Instagram page.

Other Activities

A total of 370 youth participated in multimedia (photography, videography), blogging and social media trainings, while over a 1000 participated in debates, film screenings, poetry nights, theater shows, seminars, art and photo exhibitions, and book clubs.

“I enjoy participating in the Afghan Youth Voices Festival activities. I found the academic seminar very useful, as this is the first opportunity for us girls to hear about the scholarships available to us. I was empowered by this talk to convince my parents to allow me to apply for the scholarship, perhaps study abroad and then return to effect a positive change on my community.” — Shaiesta, Panjshir

A total of 750 youth participated in the provincial festivals this year, comprising university students, representatives of CSOs, government, and the Emerging Civil Society Leaders program. Local artists, activists, and journalists were also in attendance.

Dancers in traditional dress on the stage at the Festival.
Participants performed traditional theater and dance. Credit: AYVF/Internews

The youth in Panjshir focused on promoting education with a presentation of books to the local university library as part of their Volunteer Day activity.

A young boy sits on the rocky ground, reading.
A young boy reads in the desert. Credit: AYVF participant.

“I am a big fan of the Afghan Youth Voices Festival program. My friends and I participated in this event to learn lessons about the dangers youth face while immigrating illegally, and we will spread these messages to others.” — Khalida, Balkh

The 7th Afghan Youth Voices Festival was implemented by Afghanistan Youth Cultural and Art Organization (AYCAO), under the USAID-funded Afghan Civic Engagement Program (ACEP), co-implemented by Counterpart International and Internews.

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