When Girls Live as Boys

Instead of wearing a headscarf and dress, it's not uncommon for an Afghan girl to get a short haircut and a pair of pants, and to be sent off into the world to look and behave like one of the boys. For 9 years in Afghanistan, Faheema lived as Faheem; one of many bacha posh (literally “dressed up like a boy” in Dari), to escape some of the suppression women face there. Now living in the US as a young woman, Faheema is negotiating what it means to have temporarily and secretly lived on both sides of the gender divide.

In what the UN calls the most dangerous country to be a woman, deep segregation and discrimination against women is still rampant, and some bacha posh resist efforts to rescind their male prerogatives. Join Jenny Nordberg, author of The Underground Girls of Kabul, along with former bacha posh Faheema and investigative reporter David Rohde, for a conversation on a hidden practice that offers a glimpse into a society where little has changed for women and girls in the last decade -- and also on what lies ahead, as the United States is packing up and leaving Afghanistan.

Contributors:

Katherine Zoepf was a fellow in the Better Life Lab at New America. She is the author of Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives of Young Women Who Are Transforming the Arab World

Elizabeth Weingarten is the director of the Global Gender Parity Initiative, a project of the Better Life Lab where she is a senior fellow.