Sahar Speaks: Reporting by Afghan women

Sahar Speaks: Reporting by Afghan Women is a three-part initiative aimed at advancing opportunities for local female journalists in Afghanistan. The project targets a mix of aspiring and established Afghan female journalists for an intensive six-day workshop with international specialists; ongoing mentoring after the completion of the training; followed by content publishing opportunities for the participants with a global reach. Sahar Speaks aims to produce high-quality stories illustrating the impact of America’s longest war on Afghan women, and their triumphs and fears, as told by local female journalists.

How will your approach answer the journalism challenge you are trying to solve?

Afghan female voices are missing from the reporting coming out of Afghanistan, a heartrending oversight considering the international community’s commitment to improving the lives of women since the Taliban was toppled more than a decade ago. Female reporters work for local radio, TV and news agencies, but their audience primarily stays within the region. There are currently no Afghan women reporting for the foreign news outlets in Kabul, which produce countless stories on women’s rights. Sahar Speaks will focus on a selected group of 10-20 Afghan female reporters, and chart and celebrate their progress throughout the year-long initiative. After applying to be part of Sahar Speaks, they will receive specialized training and be paired with female peers around the globe who will mentor them. Sahar Speaks will culminate in content publishing opportunities for the participants to showcase their work. Imagine how rich and nuanced the other side of the Afghan story can be, if told by its own women, not by Afghan men or foreign reporters.

How is your approach different from what already exists?

One of the greatest achievements over the last decade is the creation of Afghanistan’s lively, large and relatively independent press corps. The U.S. Agency for International Development, the United Nations and Internews have diligently trained many Afghan journalists, including women.

Sahar Speaks will go beyond training, and actively connect Afghan female journalists with the world. This will be achieved by international mentoring and publishing opportunities with a global reach. Unlike other efforts, Sahar Speaks will serve as a model. Divided into three progressive steps, the initiative can be replicated across Afghanistan and other countries. Finally, Sahar Speaks does not aim to remove journalists from their current employment, but enhance their confidence and storytelling ability. This, in turn, will increase their visibility — and their important stories — in international media.

What elements of your proposal have you already researched, tested or created?

As senior correspondent for Reuters in Kabul for nearly two years, I learned first-hand how difficult but necessary it can be to employ and encourage Afghan female reporters. Much to my pleasant surprise, I realized that cultural and social barriers are not as insurmountable as they are painted: In many cases, Afghan women just need our support and advocacy.

My work in Kabul has allowed me to establish a structure and timeline for Sahar Speaks, as well as form a preliminary team.

What are your immediate next steps and your estimated timeline for completing them?

For Sahar Speaks to come to life, it needs funding. But first, I need a partner. Since Sahar Speaks is an initiative and not an organization, I am seeking a partnership and/or fiscal sponsorship in order for Sahar Speaks to apply for grants. I hope to find such a partner as soon as possible. I will then apply for grant funding, with the hope of securing it by October. I am aiming for Sahar Speaks’ week of intensive training to take place in November, in Kabul. Mentoring sessions will be established throughout December, in the hope of publishing the first set of stories in early 2015. I am also looking for media outlets with substantial digital reach for publishing partnerships.

What resources or advice do you need to complete those steps?

I need to make contact with organizations that are interested in any aspect of Sahar Speaks – whether it be training, mentoring or publishing opportunities. I also need a crash course in fiscal sponsorship and how that might work for an initiative like mine.

Would you like to receive feedback on any particular aspects of your project?

I think I now have a clear focus and concrete, achievable goals for this initiative. I need feedback on potential sources of support, financial and collaborative.

You are viewing the refinement phase of a year long effort to resolve a challenge to journalism. Learn more about this challenge in the result phase of the process.