On August 17, 2000, two months after I had written the final chapter for BLUE CORN WOMAN...
As a feminist/lesbian, and after mindful consideration, I decided to add something "after the end" of my novel BLUE CORN WOMAN. I feel it is an issue that I want to share with my lesbian audience.
On August 17, 2000, two months after I had written the final chapter for BLUE CORN WOMAN, I was reading The Denver Post. The bold headlines read, "Taliban shuts down poor widows' bakeries.
Quoting the article as it appeared by Amir Shah of the Associated Press:
KABUL, Afghanistan---Saying Islam completely forbids women from working, Afghanistan's hard-line Taliban on Wednesday shut down bakeries run by widows, who are among the poorest of the poor here.
The bakeries were started by the United Nations' World Food Program and allowed widows to be paid salaries to make bread which was sold at a subsidized price to other women---also widows. The order left 350 widows without jobs.
The women and children who benefit from this program are among the poorest and most vulnerable people in Afghanistan. The loss of support will result in increased poverty and possible loss of life and health for women and children.
The Taliban, which rules roughly 90 percent of Afghanistan, espouse a harsh brand of Islamic law and have imposed strict controls on women since taking control of the capital, Kabul, in 1996.
When they took over, the Taliban ordered all girls' schools closed, and all women out of the work force. But they later made concessions in the areas of education and health, and women began to return to work for foreign aid organizations, wearing the all-encompassing burga that covers them from head to foot.
In early July, the Taliban issued an order barring Afghan women from working for international organizations, with the exception of the health sector. The United Nations had hoped the bakeries would also be exempt, but on Wednesday, the Taliban closed the doors and told the women to go home.
"The rules of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan are clear and they have been ignoring the rules," said Maulvi Syed Mohammed Haggani, the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan. "We do not allow women to work."
Women who had been working at the bakeries were devastated. From within one bakery in the war-ruined capital, women screamed abuses.
"Give me poison and give my five children poison, then we will die fast of starving and shame," one woman yelled.
According to the United Nations, there are an estimated 28,000 widows in Kabul. They are among the poorest in a city of 750,000 people, most of whom rely on international aid to survive.
I think this article is of nutritional importance because bread is one of the most important characters in my novel BLUE CORN WOMAN. The truth of it is, the diet of bread in this novel depends on others being fed. Without it, this novel would have starved out, just as the women and children in Kabul, and I feel like saying something about it.
Had I known of this injustice before I had finished this novel, I most certainly would have spoken my voice through my character spirit of Devi. Do you wonder how the spirit would have dealt with this inequity? I do.
How sadly ironic that just only a few short days after a year after I read the article, came the tragic day of September 11, 2001.
Copyright 2006 Sage Sweetwater, Firebrand Lesbian Novelist