The recently concluded 47th annual World Economic Forum meeting observed something unusual and inspiring —30 young women from Afganistan took centre stage, putting the spotlight on women's rights. They emerged as everyone's favourites for standing up against the death threats they received in their home country and were successful in building a cross-cultural dialogue through music. 'Zohra', the band, musically narrated the battle of 30 young women — the first in their families to learn music, they had to take a stand against the fundamentalist forces that were against them performing.
The performance at the elite ski resort was led by Afghanistan's first female conductors Negina Khpalwak and Zarifa Adiba. Playing traditional Afghan instruments like the rabab, similar to the Indian sitar, their performance symbolised hopes of a bright future for Aghanistan. According to Scroll.in, Zohra, which was founded in 2015, is an ensemble of musicians between the ages of 14 and 20. The then-five-member team has today blossomed into a vibrant 30 young performers, most of whom are students at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM).
According to a report by The Hindu, Ahmad Sarmast, the musicologist who founded ANIM, said,
Zohra, is “very symbolic” for Afghanistan. It’s so hard for Afghan girls. Some fathers do not even let their daughters go to school, not to speak about music school. For them, women are to stay at home and clean up. But my parents stood against my entire family to allow me to attend music lessons. My grandmother told my dad: 'If you let Negina leave to music school, you won’t be my son any more.’
During its rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban had banned music in Afghanistan, and learning and practising instruments was like asking for death threats and intimidation.
Considering the gender disparity the country and the world are right now facing, Zohra's performance was especially touching, and it is now time that instances like these take different forms to together build a world free from gender issues.