Out of Silence: Readings From the Afghan Women’s Writing Project

Presented by the Women’s Committees of SAG, AFTRA & WGA, West with PGA and Women In Film International Committee in Honor of International Women’s Day

Los Angeles (March 1, 2010) - Hollywood unions, guilds and organizations will unite in support of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2010 with Out of Silence: Readings from The Afghan Women’s Writing Project.

The event begins at 6 p.m. at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and is presented by the Women’s Committees of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), Screen Actors Guild (SAG), Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) with Producers Guild of America (PGA) as well as Women In Film International Committee (WIF). It will feature readings from actresses Jennifer Beals (The L Word), Summer Bishil (Towelhead), Nadia Bjornlin (Days of Our Lives),  Conchata Ferrell (Two and a Half Men), Jodi Long (All-American Girl), Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek), Teal Sherer (The Guild), Bahar Soomekh (Saw IV) and Marcia Wallace (The Simpsons).

The Museum of Tolerance and Steak Haus Productions are also sponsoring the event, directed by Frederick Ponzlov. The event has received such an overwhelming response that it is at capacity.

“This project is intended to empower, and give voice to Afghan women and create a platform for their stories to be shared with the world,” states Masha Hamilton, founder of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project.

“Members of Screen Actors Guild are thrilled to celebrate International Women’s Day by co-hosting this incredible event,” says L. Scott Caldwell, chair of SAG’s National Women’s Committee. “The Afghan Women’s Writing Project is an important endeavor that shines a light on the plight of Afghan women while lifting their courageous voices for all to hear.”

Patrika Darbo, Co-Chair, AFTRA National Women’s Committee says “The AFTRA National Women’s Committee is proud to co-sponsor this historic evening in an effort to bring to life the words and emotions of courageous and extremely talented Afghan women. Let us commemorate International Women’s Day by honoring equality and dignity for women around the world.”

This will be an evening of dramatic readings of selected essays and poems written by emerging Afghan women writers who often face estrangement, beatings, and even death for creatively expressing themselves through the written word. Novelist Masha Hamilton started the Afghan Women’s Writing Project (AWWP) in 2009 in response to the plight of Afghan women and the repressive conditions that silence their voices and their stories. AWWP now has more than 50 women journalists, novelists, poets, and screenwriters across the United States mentoring and teaching Afghan women writers through secure, Internet-based classrooms on four week rotation classes through three online classrooms. The AWWP’s mission is to help give voice to the voiceless and raise awareness about this important cause affecting women, and women artists, everywhere.

“Afghan women are expressing their written thoughts, emotions, and ideas under challenging and extreme circumstances. The CWW is honored to be co-sponsoring Out of Silence: Readings from the Afghan Women’s Writing Project for International Women’s Day – for this event will celebrate those courageous women writers as well as raise awareness about the conditions they must endure to make their voices heard,” says Claire-Dee Lim, Chair, WGAW Committee of Women Writers.

“The Producers Guild of America actively supports diversity, cooperation among unions and guilds, and creative expression in all parts of the world. We are proud to be a participant in giving Afghan women a voice for their plight on International Women's Day” says Deborah Calla, Chair of PGA’s Diversity Workshop.

Ruby Lopez, WIF International Committee co-chair says, "The industry is a global community.  The Women In Film International Committee creates opportunities for women and artists to share their voices and to fulfill our moral obligation to explore and express multicultural viewpoints."

Afghan Women’s Writing Project

The Afghan Women’s Writing Project began as an idea during novelist Masha Hamilton’s last trip to Afghanistan in November 2008. Her interest in Afghanistan was sparked in the late 1990s during the Taliban period, when she understood it was one of the worst places in the world to be a woman. The Afghan Women’s Writing Project is aimed at allowing Afghan women to have a direct voice in the world, not filtered through male relatives or members of the media. Many of these Afghan women have to make extreme efforts to gain computer access in order to submit their writings, in English, to the project.  The project reaches out to talented and generous women author/teachers here in the United States and engages them, on a volunteer, rotating basis, to teach Afghan women online from Afghanistan.  The goal of the project is to encourage the women to develop their voices and share their stories, something that was not permitted during the years when Afghanistan was Taliban-held.  The blog is a key part of the project. It is intended to instill a sense of pride in these women. It also aims to enlighten blog readers about life in Afghanistan and to provide a positive link between Afghans and their readership.  Visit the Afghan Women’s Writing Project online at www.awwproject.org.

American Federation of Television and Radio Artists National Women’s Committee

The AFTRA National Women’s Committee challenges all forms of discrimination, seeks to increase employment opportunities, tears down glass ceilings and creates strategic partnerships with other unions and advocacy groups to advance equity in the workplace.

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO, are the people who entertain and inform America. In 32 Locals across the country, AFTRA members work as actors, journalists, singers, dancers, announcers, hosts, comedians, disc jockeys, and other performers across the media industries including television, radio, cable, sound recordings, music videos, commercials, audio books, non-broadcast industrials, interactive games, the Internet, and other digital media. The 70,000 professional performers, broadcasters, and recording artists of AFTRA are working together to protect and improve their jobs, lives, and communities in the 21st century. From new art forms to new technology, AFTRA members embrace change in their work and craft to enhance American culture and society. Visit AFTRA online at www.aftra.com.

Producers Guild of America

The PGA represents, protects and promotes the interests of all members of the producing team. Expansion of Health Benefits to include every Guild member otherwise unable to secure health coverage, whether increased access to the Motion Picture & Television Industry plan, or the creation of new PGA benefits offering a wider variety of insurance. Providing as many members as possible with JOBS, via expansion of the PGA job listings, continued training opportunities via the Guild’s Seminar and Mentoring programs, taking a proactive approach towards contacting new productions and promulgating the PGA as the best source of experienced producing talent.

Continued emphasis on credits, building on strong relationships with the Motion Picture and Television Academies, encouraging studio adoption of the Producers Code of Credits, and pursuing an aggressive and public legal strategy against productions which continue to utilize deceptive credits. Publicly endorsing the adoption of and adherence to established legal standards for industry working conditions, including conforming to state law regarding such issues as hours and excessive overtime, as well as workplace safety. Working with other Guilds, studios, networks and companies to promote the general welfare of our industry and seek a harmonious resolution to issues of contention. Visit PGA online at www.producersguild.org and www.pgadiversity.org.

Screen Actors Guild National Women's Committee

This committee works to promote equal employment opportunities for female SAG members. It operates with the National Statement of Purpose and national direction to promote job opportunities for women. It also encourages positive images of women in film and television, ending sexual stereotypes and educating the industry in regards to representation of women, both in numbers and quality of representation. The committee is open to both sexes.

Screen Actors Guild is the nation's largest labor union representing working actors. Established in 1933, SAG has a rich history in the American labor movement, from standing up to studios to break long-term engagement contracts in the 1940s to fighting for artists' rights amid the digital revolution sweeping the entertainment industry in the 21st century. With 20 Branches nationwide, SAG represents more than 120,000 actors who work in film and digital motion pictures and television programs, commercials, video games, industrials, Internet and all new media formats. The Guild exists to enhance actors' working conditions, compensation and benefits and to be a powerful, unified voice on behalf of artists' rights. SAG is a proud affiliate of the AFL-CIO. Headquartered in Los Angeles, you can visit SAG online at SAG.org.

Women In Film International Committee

Women In Film International Committee fosters an interactive, cultural bond with other countries by discovering, promoting and supporting the ideas and efforts of entertainment professionals, especially women, throughout the world. Goals include developing programs and events such as industry panels on co-production, screenings in association with consulates and film boards, and participation in international film festivals.

Women In Film (www.wif.org) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women achieve their highest potential within the global entertainment, communication and media industries and to preserving the legacy of women within those industries.  Founded in 1973, WIF and its Women In Film Foundation provide for members an extensive network of contacts, educational programs, scholarships, film finishing funds and grants, access to employment opportunities, mentorships and numerous practical services in support of this mission.

Writers Guild of America, West, Committee of Women Writers

This committee promotes increased access to opportunities for women writers in the Industry; works to improve the image of women in film, television, and radio; and sponsors events designed to increase knowledge of the craft and the marketplace, such as agents and buyers panels. Link to the WGA main site is: www.wga.org.

Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) is a labor union representing writers of motion pictures, television, radio and Internet programming, including news and documentaries. Founded in 1933, the Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members. It is involved in a wide range of programs that advance the interests of writers, and is active in public policy and legislative matters on the local, national and international levels. For more information on the WGAW, please visit: www.wga.org.

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