Samar Esapzai

The author is a mommy, writer, visual artist and academic. Her areas of interest include gender relations, women's empowerment, maternal mental health, and anything and everything related to her people, the Pashtuns. She blogs at and tweets at @sesapzai (

Bloodstained honour is not honourable at all

More often than not, I come across distressing stories about women  who are beaten, tortured, maimed, and in some of the worst cases, killed by male (and sometimes even female) members of their families. It never fails to surprise me when I learn that many of these cases are on account of an honour that was supposedly ‘stained’. This ‘staining’ hence serves as an excuse for people to resort to violence – violence against women, in particular – which has always been a global pandemic. One of the most recent of such horrid stories, or so-called ‘honour-killings’, occurred in Darra Adam ...

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Maria Toor Pakay: Defying tradition to play sports

It was in 2009 when the world first learned about Maria Toor Pakay – the brave, talented 22-year-old Pashtun female squash player, who hails from the tribal region of South Waziristan – an area that is considered to be the most conservative, and is hence dubbed as the ‘most treacherous place on earth’. It is not very often, if at all, that we hear about women, especially from this part of the world, who have managed to break strict cultural norms and traditions in order to pursue a career in sports, much less a career in anything. I admit that when I first heard Maria’s ...

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Why Celebrate International Women’s Day?

Year after year, March 8 unwaveringly marks International Women’s Day, which is commemorated globally for more than a hundred years now. And while the original focus of the celebration was a movement towards gender equality and women’s suffrage, it has since evolved to become more than that. It has become a day to celebrate women – their achievements and successes – as well as bring awareness to the progressions they’ve managed to accomplish thus far. Yet, I can’t help but wonder about the significance of this day – whether it even deems any significance at all – especially for Pashtun women living back ...

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It’s not easy being a Pashtun woman in the media

“Working as a Pashtun female is not easy in any field,” said one of my Pashtun journalist friends, Sana Safi. The more I thought about what she said, the more I realised how true her statement was. Pashtun women who have decided to break all social and cultural barriers to work in the media feel this the most. However, it is important to understand the context of why Pashtun women working in the media are seen as unacceptable by some Pashtuns who are not only living back home – within Afghanistan and Pakistan – but also abroad. These Pashtuns believe that the media ...

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