Zulala Hashemi, a native of the region where the Taliban and IS rule with might, sword and bullet, is 18 years old, pretty, and a singing star. A contestant in Afghanistan’s talent show Afghan Star, she caught the gaze and admiration of millions of viewers on social media, both women and men, for 12 long weeks.
Just before the finals, Zulala spoke to AFP: "I want to convey a message to Afghan women: they must claim their rights and explore their talents".
Zulala lost out to another talent, a humble hair salon owner who comes from a persecuted minority group. The interesting part of the story is that this gentleman (and surely he is one) did his bit to bring the gender story squarely on stage with one grand gesture.
"I am very happy I won the first position, but would have been happier if Zulala had come first, because the women here live with a lot of restrictions," he told an audience sprinkled with celebrities as he accepted his award.
Mubarez then turned to Zulala and, to wild cheers from the audience, handed her the award.
"I'm proud Zulala has made it to the finals. I want to give this award to her -- she deserves it," he said.
Stereotypes are being broken all across the globe. Women are engaging with change while observing basic traditions, navigating as safely as they can. Sometimes we can’t see beyond the veil. We pass judgments.
Kavita Ramdas, distinguished gender rights advocate and thought commentator, has a great deal to say on this subject “I am interested in how women are saving us. They're saving us by redefining and re-imagining a future that defies and blurs accepted polarities, polarities we've taken for granted for a long time, like the ones between modernity and tradition…”
Kavita Ramdas will be giving a talk at our forthcoming Gala on 10th June. Do listen!