Vernissage: ‘Voices on the rise’

14 June 2011

356ecf74a889b7f7265d645375aae6ce_XLEFD and the Mission of Afghanistan to the EU co-hosted a vernissage of the celebrated photojournalism exhibition 'Voices on the Rise: Afghan women making the news' at the Brussels Press Club. The 50 photographs show a range of professional Afghan women including in politics, government, the media, civil society, the arts and sport. The exhibition remained at the Press Club from 14th June until 15th July. The exhibition is part of a European programme with Afghan civil society representatives that EFD is currently supporting.

The keynote speaker at the vernissage was European Commission Vice-President and EU Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding. The guest speakers were the Afghan Ambassador to the EU, Belgium and NATO, HE Homayoun Tandar and the exhibition’s co-curator Khorshied Samad. The event was attended by eighty participants including Ambassadors from EU member states, journalists, representatives from NGOs, business community and EU officials.


In her speech, Commission Vice-President Reding noted that the photojournalism exhibition highlighted a different side of Afghan life, often neglected in European media coverage. She emphasised Europe’s lack of knowledge about the 14.5 million Afghan women who live in the country and said that this exhibition would help to inform people outside Afghanistan about the lives of women in the country. Selecting two photographs from the exhibition, one depicting women about to vote, the other of a young woman reading a book and looking confidently into the lens of the camera, Viviane Reding noted that, for her, these photographs in particular, symbolised the hope of a positive future for Afghan women.

The Afghan Ambassador, HE Homayoun Tandar, gave an empassioned speech saying that over the last ten years much had been achieved in Afghanistan. He stressed that the international community must remain committed to protecting Afghan women’s rights. He highlighted the fact that in the 1990s Taliban rule had proven disastrous in terms of respecting human rights, stressing that they must not be allowed to return to power.

Exhibition co-curator Khorshied Samad set the context for the exhibition saying that despite the extreme material poverty present in Afghanistan, many people fall in love with the country on their first visit. She highlighted that the women featured in the photos were helping to create a brighter and more hopeful future for their country, despite the considerable obstacles they faced on a daily basis. She read a short contribution from her co-curator Jane McElhone, who was unable to attend, noting that despite the grave situation in Kabul, many women professionals were refusing to leave the country, instead choosing to utilise their skills to help rebuild Afghan society.

For more information see the Voices on the Rise website and this video from a previous exhibition held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.