Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Mighty Fingers- Facing Change is a two-part experiential art project designed to engage and inspire adolescent girls worldwide. Starting November 11th, 2012, a group of women, including me, will be traveling to fifteen to twenty locations around the world to create a collaborative piece of art with adolescent girls in effort to empower and unify them (maybe insert photo of Mighty Fingers here?). As we travel around the world during the next year, I will be writing about female friendships in different cultures around the world from a teenage girl perspective.
In preparation for the project launch on November 6th I met with a seventeen-year-old girl from Afghanistan who is studying in the United States.  We discussed everything; life and death, family and friends, war and peace. In regard to friendships I asked her these questions:

·      What do you and your friends like to do for fun?
·      How do you choose who to be friends with?
·      When girls have relationship problems/friendship difficulties/drama in your country, what is it most often about? 

After hearing her answers I thought about how drastically different they would from the average American girl, so I asked the same questions to a sixteen-year-old girl from New Jersey.

When the girl from Afghanistan was asked: “What do you and your friends like to do for fun?” she explained that there isn’t much socialization outside the family. Girls get sold off to a man once they go through puberty and they then become his property.
“When we are little we do normal things like swing and chase each other, but once girls reach puberty they don’t spend much time together.” Sometimes families will have parties and once everyone is gathered the girls and the boys separate and girls make conversation with each other until the party is over. Girls do not watch movies because it is uncomfortable or embarrassing to see women from other cultures who act so differently than they do.”
When I asked a teenaged girl from New Jersey what she does with her friends for fun she said: “We do whatever. We watch movies, walk around town, go get coffee.”

The question: “How do you choose who to be friends with?” was answered very differently by both girls as well. In Afghanistan, oftentimes girls do not choose their friends and will spend time with close families or relatives at parties but they do not really develop extremely close relationships outside of the family. “For many teenage girls in Afghanistan something to be proud of would be how rich your husband is,” the young woman I interviewed said.
Unlike Afghanistan, choosing new friends in the United States is very common among teenage girls.
“Friends come and go, they don’t always last too long so deciding to be friends with someone is not a huge deal,” the 16 year old girl from New Jersey explained. “I’ll be friends with anybody that I can relate to or has a good personality.”

In Afghanistan, girls do not have many girl-to-girl relationship problems because they are usually inside, with their husbands. Most relationship problems are between the husband and wife, and they are kept inside the family because telling people would be disrespectful to the family. When girls and women are being mistreated by their husbands and they try to seek help, people often find out about it and the problem gets worse.
If the girls or women are caught trying to get away from their husbands they are publically stoned to death. According to my source from Afghanistan, this system ends up causing many girls to choose suicide over living with the brutality in their marriage.
“It is common for girls to cover themselves in petrol and light themselves on fire,” she explained.
In the United States, most fights or drama between girls are about boys.
“It’s always about a boy,” my interviewee stated. “If one girl wants a boy and another girl does too they can never be friends.” Girls are also much more vocal about their difficulties In the United Sates, “There are never any secrets, things always gets out and it always causes a lot of drama.” she said.

Girls in the United States are vocal because they have the freedom to be. This was a freedom that was hard earned by the women who came before us. There are brave girls in Afghanistan fighting for these freedoms right now but it has to be done in a much more secretive manner to avoid death threats and persecution. The entire conversation was incredibly interesting and it made me look at my own life in a new light. It made me realize how lucky most girls from the United States are to be able to choose their own friends, their own husbands, and their own path in life.

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