‘There is no need for women to work’: Afghan TV show takes on patriarchy

‘There is no need for women to work’: Afghan TV show takes on patriarchy

Roya wants to take a job in a local media company, but her father and brother aren’t keen. “What is the need for a young girl to work outside?” asks her father, seated on a toushak, the traditional Afghan low-seating cushions, sipping the customary post-dinner chai. Her brother chimes in with an answer. “There is no need for women to work,” he says.

And so begins the pilot episode of a series that is set to air on prime-time Afghan television in November.

The show, named after its central character, Roya, follows the life of the single, 20-year-old, educated woman in a post-Taliban Kabul, and that of her family – parents, two younger sisters and a brother. Inspired by the US hit show Ugly Betty, the series takes a lighter, and more humorous approach to some of the pressing challenges women face in Afghanistan. Its central message is that women should get out of the home and join the workforce.

Roya is the first woman in her family to seek employment. However, the challenges she faces go beyond having to convince her family to let her work. Roya’s experiences and interactions are often awkward, and complicated by characters who aren’t accustomed to being around working women.

“The story, infused with humour, traces Roya’s journey as much as that of the other characters who get to evolve and grow from the experiences of working alongside women,” says Masooma Ibrahimi, the show’s scriptwriter. “Over the course of 10 episodes, she encounters a variety of characters. Some are supportive and helpful, while others are negative and do not approve of the idea of women in offices,” she adds.

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