Peggy Kelsey
Peggy Kelsey

Twelve years ago in Austin, Texas, Peggy Kelsey, a professional photographer with degrees in social work and education, was privileged to meet a delegation of 14 Afghan women.  Their strength, humor and resiliency, so contrary to the media image of helplessness at the time, inspired Kelsey to create the Afghan Women’s Project.

That project took her to Afghanistan in 2003 for six weeks – returning with portraits and stories of 40 Afghan women.

Since then, Kelsey has traveled the country with her exhibit and slide presentations, sharing their stories.  In 2007 she traveled to Jordan to chronicle the experiences of Iraqi refugee women, and in 2010 she returned to Afghanistan for 10 weeks.  In 2012 her book, “Gathering Strength:  Conversations with Afghan Women,” was published.  In the words of Khaled Hosseini, author of “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” Kelsey’s book “gives voice to the struggles, sacrifices, and hopes of a remarkable cast of Afghan women.  This illuminating and moving collection of interviews is a testament to the courage and resilience of women who collectively yearn to rebuild their war-torn nation and for the freedom to choose the course of their own lives.”

Peggy Kelsey's talk will feature stories and photos featured in her book, "Gathering Strength."
Peggy Kelsey’s talk will feature stories and photos featured in her book, “Gathering Strength.”

On Wednesday (June 18) at 3:30 p.m., Peggy Kelsey will bring her story – and the stories of the Afghan women she has met and photographed – to the Great Room of the Arizona Senior Academy.  Kelsey will present “Afghanistan:  A View from the Ground,” which opens with some surprising things she has found, including a children’s circus, women drivers, women studying Taekwondo and basketball with male instructors and more.

There will be many stories of the women she has interviewed, and maps and aerial shots to give a sense of place and geography.  Kelsey’s presentation is intended to be an eye-opening and stereotype-breaking introduction to the current situation in Afghanistan in general and the status of Afghan women in particular.

Submitted by Janet Kerans, Academy Village Volunteer

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Author Bursts Stereotype of Helpless Afghan Women: June 2014