Reality TV has become a booming television trend that seems to have no limits.
From women competing for plastic surgery procedures to the infamous fist pumping escapades of the Jersey Shore, it seems that many of these shows don’t necessarily portray reality, but instead depict people in embarrassing, painful, or ridiculous situations for entertainment value.
If done well, however, the power of reality TV cannot be overlooked. Something I learned in a most unlikely place – a new show in Afghanistan that focuses on women’s abuse called Niqab, meaning The Mask.
On the show, women share their stories of abuse at the hands of their husbands behind the safety of a half blue and half white mask. The blue side of the mask is meant to symbolize a burka and the oppression the women of Afghanistan have endured and the white side of the mask is meant to signify a woman’s innocence.
The stories the women share are chilling, like guest Saraya, who was forced to marry a known 58-year-old rapist at only 15-years-old.
The women share their stories with a studio audience made up of religious and legal experts and human rights campaigners who offer insight on their lives and in many cases clarify the injustices the women have faced.
Of Saraya’s story, one of the religious experts said, “Your marriage at such a young age to such an older man is against Islam…His behavior is against Islam and against the law.”
I imagine being able to share their stories and get perspective from experts can be a therapeutic experience for victims and women watching who find that they are not alone. The show can also help educate women about their rights, especially when it comes to marriage, many of which are still forced in the country.
My only fear, however, is the negative consequences women can face if they are discovered for sharing their stories or even tuning in and the anger men may feel for being represented publically in such a negative light.
The Man Behind the Mask
Interestingly, The Mask was created by 28-year-old Sami Mandi, who said he was inspired by his mother and all the mothers of Afghanistan whose work and suffering he believes goes unnoticed.
“I was always desiring to have something like the mask, like this show in our media…Because in Afghanistan, it’s very difficult for women to talk about their difficulties and their problems, and the violence they are facing in their home,” said Mandi.
Determined to give a voice to these women through the show, Mandi is hopeful he can help change the culture in Afghanistan.
“…we can use the life of these individuals as an example to show the people, I am sure we can make some changes in the life of the women. And I am sure we can change in the minds of men in Afghanistan.”
This is the kind of reality TV that can change lives.
I strongly encourage you to watch the video provided by CNN online.
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Photo by Moog used under a Creative Commons license.