In 2008, Sediqua Sherzai set up Radio Roshani to combat outdated, and sexist gender roles in Afghanistan, rules that have long dictated and encouraged women and girls to remain inside the home. Radio Roshani is a podcast that creator Sediqua Sherzai started with the hope of promoting feminism in Afghanistan, and creating political motivations behind treating women with respect and dignity.
However, Sherzai quickly found herself at odds with the Taliban, who warned her to stop broadcasting, and later fired rockets at her station. Briefly in 2009, Sherzai halted the broadcasts, and asked the Afghan government for protection, but it became clear that none was impending. Thus, after a few days, she courageously went back on the air, “because we just couldn’t give in to threats.”
After the 2009 attacks, there has continued to be a great deal of local resistance. Men have often informed Sherzai that she is leading local women astray, and promoting conflict between men and women in the home. She reported to the BBC, that “These actions are so bad that you deserve to be killed,” she was told.
Once again, later in 2015, she received a terrifying phone call from someone speaking in a Pashto language, asking her for her exact location repeatedly. “I wasn’t sure who this person was and was suspicious. After that, I turned off my phone and did my best to get away,” she informed the BBC. Sherzai returned to find that the Taliban had made the station’s staff flee, and destroyed the station’s archives, equipment, and planted mines in the building.
Soon afterwards in 2016, Sherzai was forced out of her original station, and relocated to a nearby city. Despite all of this, Sherzai continues to produce her radio and fight back to sexist institutions she lives each and every day.
While Radio Roshani is now the only radio station in Kuduz managed by a woman, there are three others that we launched by women, and still broadcast some programs for women despite now being mainly run by men. Zohal Noori for instance – who works for both Radio Roshani and another female-prompted station – explains that some men tune in to women’s programs, and that is assisting in altering the attitude and culture surrounding sexism. Noori informs that “more men are now willing to allow their wives to go to work and become active in the local economy… and a growing number are also permitting their wives and daughters to be examined in hospitals, thanks largely to an influx of female doctors.”
This skyrocketing progress was almost immediately halted after the Taliban incursion on August 31st, 2019, which led to conflict throughout the city. Sherzai hopes that peace negotiations will become a reality; without female justice and representation being traded.
By Maggie Di Sanza