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Mercy Corps publishes groundbreaking book

Afghanistan, October 4, 2001

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    "'The veil should not be considered an impermeable wall behind which there is no possibility of action. Instead, value and attention should be given to the voices of these women.'" Photo: Scott Heidler/Mercy Corps. Photo:

Blind Chickens and Social Animals: Creating Spaces for Afghan Women's Narratives under the Taliban

"Before, we were like blind chickens..." - Afghan woman

Mercy Corps announces the publication of Blind Chickens and Social Animals: Creating Spaces for Afghan Women's Narratives under the Taliban. Authored by Anna M. Pont, the agency's Community Development Specialist for Afghanistan/Pakistan, this timely study explores the role of gender in Afghanistan today and reveals the complexity of women's position there. Only by gaining a thorough and accurate understanding of women in Afghanistan, Pont argues, can effective assistance be provided and the
status of women improved.

The book argues that studies conducted by "outsiders" are prone to homogenize the developing world woman as "a powerless victim of particular cultural, religious and socio-economic systems or of the colonial process," and thus, a true understanding of the position of women is missed.

"The veil should not be considered an impermeable wall behind which there is no possibility of action. Instead, value and attention should be given to the voices of these women," concludes Pont.

While much has been heard from urban Afghan women about the impact of the Taliban, this book gives rural women a voice and reveals that geography can often shape opinion, as can the level of education and economic status. More than 218 women were interviewed.

An anthropologist by training, Pont's qualitative research draws on her extensive experience in the region. After a brief description of the Taliban, the book's chapters include: Visibility and Mobility, Social Animals, Health Care, Refugee Villages, Education, Women's Work and Divisions of Labor, Repatriation and Displacement.