Sold into Matrimony at 13, Afghan Girl Writes of Forgiveness and Laughter

Fetzer Institute in Partnership with the Afghan Women's Writing Project

Jun 14, 2013, 18:12 ET from Fetzer Institute

KABUL, Afghanistan and SAN FRANSISCO, June 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Thirteen-year old Massoma remembers the day in Afghanistan that her "head exploded, full of their talking, talking. They talked and talked and sold me. They laughed, happy." She describes the confusion and pain in short, terse, sentences, wondering that she "was not a good bride. I was not a perfect woman, because I was thirteen. My head exploded." Beatings and disappointments give way to childbirth and yet, "Filled with pain, I was a mother, but had nothing." The out of control spiral calms when she finds forgiveness and her world changes. "I have forgiven ... My baby laughs and I laugh. Life laughs, and I am happy."

Published expressions of intense experiences like Massoma's are rare from Afghanistan, but through the work of the Afghan Women's Writing Project, she is able to receive online mentoring for her writing, publication on AWWP's blog, and the opportunity to share her voice and find confirmation and strength from readers around the world. Massoma wrote this piece as part of a special AWWP workshop this year, sponsored by the Fetzer Institute's Campaign for Love and Forgiveness.

The collaboration was formed to give the Afghan writers an opportunity to explore sources of strength and support in their lives through a structured workshop. The controlled setting allowed the women to receive not only the instruction on strengthening their writing and English skill but also a safe venue in which they could safely find camaraderie and support from their mentors and the other writers. The cross-cultural experience, as with all AWWP workshops, reveals over and over the themes that are not bound by geographic borders.

"I am from Afghanistan," writes Friba, "you are from the USA, and we are from all countries. We must be the messengers of love and forgiveness around the world."

Over 150 Afghan women work with AWWP, some of whom conceal laptops under burqas or walk hours through Taliban territory to upload their submissions on contemporary politics to forced marriage or musings on the nature of love and forgiveness. Polished poems and essays are then published in an online magazine at where readers from around the world gain unique insights into Afghan culture and share their reactions to the writers' works, nurturing a global dialogue. As of early 2013, close to 800 of the writers' works have been published online, with nearly 90,000 visitors from 187 countries having "heard" the Afghan women's voices through their written words at

In support of the workshops, AWWP also provides laptops and internet service for writers, quarterly reading salons and training workshops in five Afghan cities along with safe transportation to all women to and from the events, training of AWWP writers are to transcribe the oral stories of non-literate and disabled Afghan women, and printing of the first anthology of writings from AWWP writers, The Sky is a Nest of Swallows. In addition, AWWP opened a women-only internet and writing cafe in Kabul at the end of 2012 and in 2013 began broadcasting the writers' work in a monthly radio program airing in Afghanistan.

The AWWP was founded in 2009 by award-winning journalist Masha Hamilton in defense of the human right to voice one's story.  In 2010, the AWWP was honored by the New York State Division of Human Rights. AWWP is supported in part by a grant from the Fetzer Institute, and has been hailed by Nicholas Kristof's Half the Sky social media as making strides to empower the women of Afghanistan.

Read more about the Love & Forgiveness campaign at To read more works by Afghan women, please visit,, @awwproject, or send an email to

SOURCE Fetzer Institute