A message of courage and transformation from Kabul to Davos
“Zohra” conveyed the message of young Afghan women to the world leaders in Davos; to the diplomatic community, UN, students and public in Geneva; and to the public in Zurich.
Afghanistan is known for being a land of beauty and challenges, aspirations and struggles; where everyday life can be constrained with insecurity and trauma, or inspired with love and determination for a better life. The conflict and the suicide attacks have taken their cruelly toll on almost all walks of life; targeting schools and universities, clinics, sport fields, road passengers and even public mourning events; denying life for civilians including women and children.
Afghanistan is also known for its old civilization, its courageous people and the potential in its young population. This reflection is, however, about how an innovation and commitment when met with opportunities could transform the life of young women and in turn help the country in building a peaceful, just and civil society. The Afghan Women Orchestra “Zohra” is a group of over 30 girls, aged 13 to 20, who have defied the odds against them and chosen music for their education and career. Many students in “Zohra” Orchestra are from poor families, are orphans and used to be street children; whose childhoods were shattered with the loss of loved ones, displacement, conflict and extreme poverty. And today they are the first women in their country to learn music in over 30 years. This is a significant progress in Afghanistan where less than two decades ago, during the Taliban Regime, music was forbidden; listening to music, playing music and possessing musical paraphernalia were outlawed and were subject to punishment – let alone if this was by women. In January 2017, “Zohra” Orchestra was invited to Switzerland where on January 20ththey performed in the closing session of the annual meeting of World Economic Forum in Davos; in collaboration with the local Swiss musicians- Orchestre du Collège de Genève. Hundreds including heads of states, dignitaries, business leaders, academia and world media attended the performance and it was live streamed on the Forum website.