A Picture of Progress

Afghan women highlight women’s empowerment in their art

08 April, 2018, Kabul – Mina Naibkhil is a 21-year old Afghan woman studying art at Kabul University. Her paintings reflect her view of women’s life in Afghanistan, and draw on imagery of a world in which women are bold and empowered.

“We can touch the heart with our art,” says Mina: “I try to conduct a dialogue with society about women’s abilities with my paintings.”

Mina has lived outside Afghanistan for 12 years. She has noticed that, in other countries, people have a negative image of Afghan women. She uses painting to change the negative impressions she encounters.


  • Mina is a 21-year old woman, studying art at Kabul University.
  • Mina attended at the Parwaaz Painting Festival which was organized by UN Afghanistan.
  • Her painting was selected as the second best painting out of 57.
  • Mina reflects women empowerment through her paintings.
  • She is the first artist among her families.

“Art can reflect positive images of life,” she says. “Afghan women can fly like birds, they are strong and empowered, and we need to change hearts and minds by showing images of resilient and strong women.”

Recently, the UN in Afghanistan organized a painting competition to mark International Women’s Day, under the name ‘Parwaaz’, which means ‘to fly.’ Mina’s entry in the competition won second prize.

“My painting was of a woman in black and white with colorful eyes and smile behind the pages of newspapers.” Mina adds, “Black and white reflects women’s difficult lives, but colorful eyes reflect hopes for a bright future.”

A total of 57 artists from around Afghanistan participated at the Parwaaz Painting Festival, which took place in Babur garden in Kabul. Most of the artists were young women.

Mina is the only female artist in her family. Although to begin with, some members of her family did not agree with her decision to become and artist, she now has their full support.

“I am opening the door to the other women in Afghanistan.” She recalls: “I think being an artist and an active woman is a virtuous thing. We need to struggle for what we want to be in the future.”

Mina wants to prove herself as equal to men, and as someone who can change her life according to her own hopes and dreams.

“If we need female doctors and engineers, we also need female artists,” says Mina. “I want to serve my family and community through art.”

Gender equality is a fundamental human right. Yet despite progress in this area, women and girls across Afghanistan do not enjoy the same rights as men, or achieve their potential as economic and social agents.

The UN supports Afghan institutions and civil society to strengthen gender equality, promote the agenda of women’s empowerment, and enhance women’s full enjoyment of human rights and the eradication of poverty as essential instruments to economic and social development in Afghanistan.


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