The Parrot

Sana Kakar, 18, is striving to change the way children and adolescents think and behave, for a better tomorrow.

By Feridoon Aryan
Sana Kakar
UNICEF Afghanistan/2018/Pirozzi
15 November 2018

Kabul, Afghanistan, 15 November 2018 – It is lunch time during an adolescent photography workshop in Bamyan province. I am about to finish my Afghan Kabab and Kaabeli Palawo (special rice dish) when I notice a young girl rehearsing lines for her next performance of the famous BBC radio programme, ‘Stories of Life’, where she takes on the educator “The Parrot”.

I strike up a conversation with the girl, Sana, asking her about her role as The Parrot, and how she came to be on Stories of Life.

“My mother has been involved in radio for as long as I remember,” Sana said. “I was 6 years old when playing roles on radio soap operas and programmes became a passion. “I would follow along, holding on to the hem of my mother’s dress as she rehearsed her lines, and I would repeat those lines after her like a typical parrot. I guess that is how I started my first lines for radio programmes and the concept of a parrot.”

It has been tough for Sana growing up in an environment with so little to offer girls and women–to advance in life, build careers, make a name or become agents of change. “I have been lucky because my mother was my inspiration,” Sana said. “She broke the taboos that existed in my extended family, where for a woman to perform on radio shows and play various roles was out of the question.

Sana Kakar
UNICEF Afghanistan/2018/Pirozzi

“My mother didn’t give up and continued to follow her passion and today has become a successful voice on the radio, and a role model for many women in my family,” Sana said.

Sana is excited as she starts to talk about her role as The Parrot.

“The reason I love my role is that I was also deprived of information and knowledge that would have helped me, although I had my mother who was a medical student and would tell me and my siblings about issues that can transform our lives,” Sana said. “But think of millions of children around the country who may not have such a mother, thus making it imperative for The Parrot to tell such things to the children.”

The programme talks about issues such as children’s rights, hygiene, healthy food, time for play and time for studies, respect for parents, and the importance of a safe and protected childhood.

“It is so strange when I hear my own voice on radio while commuting home or to the office. Once, when my programme was on the radio, an old cab driver asked if I would mind him listening to it. His grandchildren were huge fans of The Parrot and when he hears it he feels he is with his grandchildren,” Sana said. “I was about to tell him that I was The Parrot, but I decided not to. I did not know if I could trust him.”

 Sana is also creating paintings of the issues that are close to her heart. She paints a girl going to school in a wheel chair, and a young girl with long hair by the window of her house, yearning to go out like the boys and live her life.

“I will continue to play my role as The Parrot, and also as a painter. With these two avenues I can change the lives of many children in Afghanistan, especially girls,” she said.