Women’s rights activist Shafiqa Khpalwak is hoping to change public attitudes in Afghanistan with her newly released Pashto-language translation of Women Who Work, the 2017 book by U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka.
“I did translate this book to encourage the Afghan women to take the leadership role in the society,” Khpalwak said in a telephone interview with VOA’s Afghan Service. Ivanka Trump has said she wrote the book to motivate women to come forward and play leadership roles in economic life of their communities.
By translating the book, Khpalwak hopes to make that message accessible to the Pashto-speaking majority of people in Afghanistan as well as millions more in neighboring Pakistan.
That impact may be limited because Afghanistan is rated by the United Nations as having the lowest literacy rate in the world. An estimated 31 percent of Afghans over age 15 are able to read, a figure that drops to just 17 percent for women, according to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
However, the book’s publishers in Kabul say the reading market has increased recently and that people are showing greater interest in books by Western writers translated into Pashto and Dari. Other American leaders whose books are now available in Pashto include President Trump and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Khpalwak said Women Who Work provides great guidance and recommendations for working women on how to find a balance between their domestic and work lives.
Afghanistan is a patriarchal society where women are seldom seen in positions of authority. However, Khpalwak said, “I have found this book highly motivational. The women of Afghanistan will surely be inspired and motivated to take charge of their own lives, put things in perspective and bring the change they are seeking.”
She described the experience of translating books into her native language empowering and an excellent way to learn about other cultures. “It also has a scope to change one’s perspective about their cultures and traditions and offers you flexibility to adopt and embrace foreign ideas.”
For instance, she said, she learned from translating the book about Ivanka Trump’s roles as a mother, a politician and a businesswoman.
“Women don’t only work for themselves, but for coming generations, a woman could be a mother, a leader, a wife, and an ideal, nothing can stop them.”
Translations called ‘a gift’
Khpalwak said young Afghan women especially are showing an interest in reading books from other cultures and that these books “could help them find their way in a conservative society like Afghanistan.”
Safia Wardak, a young women’s rights activist who has read the Pashto version of Women Who Work, spoke to VOA about what foreign books mean to her.
“I enjoy reading international books in my mother language. Pashto versions of such books for people who can’t read English is a gift by the translators. After reading Ivanka’s book, I am feeling motivated to work and to lead,” she said.
There are hundreds book publishers and stores in Afghanistan, and the business seems to be flourishing.
Ikram, the owner of Khatez Book Publishing Association in the eastern city of Jalalabad, says he increasingly hears from readers looking for new books translated from English and other languages into Pashto and Dari. However, there are no centrally compiled statistics to show how many such books exist.