Untold is a writer development programme for female writers in marginalised communities, where women's stories are more likely to remain hidden. Years of chronic instability in Afghanistan have stifled their creative expression and freedom; and narratives from areas of conflict and post-conflict are often dominated by male or Western voices.
The project, launched in 2019, aims to give women a space to speak for themselves in their own language, without having themes projected onto them, and to offer the reading public a more diverse and multifaceted literary landscape.
There are minimal opportunities for writers in conflict and post-conflict situations and when their experiences are represented, they are invariably represented by Western and Global North voices. Untold is special in not only working with creative writers in these areas, but in being guided by the belief that it is the writers' own stories, their own voices, and their own words which are so valuable. – Lucy Hannah, Founder of Untold
Untold’s development programme selects local writers from a countrywide open call, who then have the opportunity to develop their writing with experienced translators and editors, share their stories with other local writers, and reach new international audiences in translation.
In January 2020, Untold chose 10 women writers across Afghanistan, from Kabul to Juzjan and Kunar, to receive support and mentorship on their writing. Editors and translators work remotely with each writer to develop their craft and their stories using a model which is sensitive to the cultural context.
"It’s hard to get published in Afghanistan – it costs money; women face obstacles from society and families are anti them writing; it’s hard to write well because there is little or no support on offer.”– Sharifa Pasun, a writer in the Untold Programme
Untold: Write Afghanistan is creating a replicable model that can be applied to other areas of conflict and post-conflict, where marginalised writers’ stories have little opportunity to be developed and reach a wider global readership.
Going forward, Untold plan to issue a second wider call for Afghan women’s writing, to drive momentum for the project. Untold also aims to publish a long-overdue anthology of women’s writing from Afghanistan.
Untold is supported by The British Council, The Bagri Foundation and Prospero World.
For more information about the Untold:Write Afghanistan project, visit their website.