The Guardian

Trailblazing women of Kabul, Afghanistan – a photo essay

The Women by Women project commissions local female photographers to tell the stories of trendsetting women and girls, in countries where the charity ActionAid works. The series starts with these stories of radical women in Kabul, including a street artist, a kickboxer and a politician
Fakhria Momtaz runs a yoga class on a snowy hill in Kabul. Photograph: Tahmina Saleem/ActionAid

In 2018, less than a quarter of photographs published in major media outlets were taken by female photojournalists. Women by Women aims to demonstrate the importance of showing diverse perspectives in photography; female as well as male; local as well as international, and how different the world can look as a result.

Putting this brief in the hands of local female photographers, the series starts in Kabul, Afghanistan, with the stories of a kickboxer, politician, street artist, yoga teacher, fashion designer and drugs counsellor. They are all breaking down gender barriers and shattering stereotypes in different ways, in one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women.

“Being a woman photographer is a very big challenge in Afghanistan. If men see you with a camera, they are shocked; they think ‘how can a woman be doing photography?’” says the photographer Tahmina Saleem.

The struggles Saleem describes are mirrored by the women featured in the photos. Laila Haidari, for example, who runs the only private drug rehabilitation centre in the city, was married off to a man much older than her when she was just 12 and was forced

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