AFGHAN WOMEN BEHIND THE WHEEL WITH VOICEOVER
A pioneering driving school in Herat is giving Afghan women a chance to learn to drive in a safe environment. In Afghanistan’s highly conservative society, motoring is generally disapproved of as it’s something that takes the woman out of the home. But these women say it helps them better provide for their families.
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Its proximity to Iran has given the western city of Herat a progressive feeling, compared to other Afghan cities. Here you'll see tree-lined roads, restored monuments and a bustling economy that, like the rest of the country relies heavily on the car.
But what you won't see often anywhere in Afghanistan is a woman driving.
“One of our biggest problems is that there are a majority of families, who won’t allow their women to join the driving school. They don’t understand why a female should be able to drive.”
There are only 80 registered female drivers in Herat, but that represents a huge breakthrough in a country where women are often criticised for driving.
“Before, I would wait at the bus station for hours for one bus. Plus, in Herat a single female isn’t allowed to sit with a male. So most of the time I was walking to my work-place or I was waiting for hours in the bus station in winter and summer.”
Families are reluctant to let their daughters and wives learn to drive alongside men at Afghanistan's heavily attended traffic departments.
“One of our students wanted to join a driving school but her husband and her family did not give her permission. So she did not eat food for two days until her family gave her permission to go to driving school. So finally she was successful and last Thursday was her final day with us.”
Here in Herat, a female-only driving school has been offering Afghan women the chance to learn to drive in a safe environment.
“I created this driving school, because I was very interested to learn how to drive but my family wouldn’t let me go to the traffic department, because males and females are learning together there.”
Many drivers in Afghanistan simply buy their papers illegally, but these driving graduates are fully qualified before they head off on the road.
“All the time we depend on men, but there are some things we should be able to do by ourselves. We should know how to drive so that’s why I came here to learn how.”
While conservative Afghans may disapprove of female drivers, as they say it takes them away from the home, these women say it helps them care for their families better, especially in a country with many widows or families where men need to travel far away to find work.
“The majority of our students have jobs, so after they come here and learn how to drive, they can take their kids to school. Then they feel much more secure”
Don't expect to see Afghanistan's highways thronged with female drivers any time soon, but once they pass their tests, these ladies will hopefully act as role models to a new generation of female motorists.
This is Ruth Owen, in Afghanistan, for the NATO Channel
Year of Production: 2012