International Women's Day

Beyond Skin with partners will be co-hosting International Women's Day activities 3rd - 9th March in Northern Ireland with very special guest, Alina Gawhary (Afghanistan) flying in from Bangladesh. 

Alina got her safe passage from Afghanistan to Bangladesh on 5 March 2023 with the help of music composer Sadie Harrison. A process that took a year and a half as Alina negotiated her way through Taliban checkpoints to get her passport, over and over again.

On 6 March, they are finally going to meet in Belfast - nearly two and a half years after Alina first sent a Facebook message with a photograph of her artwork in flames, burned by the Taliban. “I'm not sure why I responded, having received so many messages requesting help after the Taliban took the country again. But I did, and Alina wrote back....and here we are” Sadie

Sadie Harrison (flying in from London), Behnaz Mafakheri (Iran) & Rachel James (British Guyanese) will also be guests at some events

It has taken much work and several visa attempts to get Alina to Northern Ireland and we thank you all who have helped. She will also be a guest at some events in London 10th - 15th March.

“I am Alina Gawhary. I am a professional artist and amateur musician from Afghanistan. I have spent my whole life with fear, stress and just for being a girl and an artist. My everyday life has its own sad story that made me an artist which helped to shelter art and tell stories and reality through my art. I was born in 2004 in Kabul province and in a big family, have five sisters, two brothers and now currently living in Bangladesh. My life totally changed when the regime came back into power and stole my dreams and made my home a prison. I was painting the beauty and reality in secret. Most subjects of my paintings are music instruments as the situation didn’t let me play music. I wanted to show my interest through my paintings. The only thing I can do as an artist for my country and my family is to show beauty, unheard voices and beauty of music. I use my brushes as a weapon in front of the sad things which are happening in my country. I was one of the lucky young women and got out of Afghanistan with a scholarship to a university in Bangladesh. My paintings through Darren (Beyond Skin) and friends are being sold to people around the word which is very exciting for me.” Alina

Alina will attend events at...
4th March: Arts Council NI / Schools / Youth Clubs
5th March: Queens University. 12.30pm - 1.30pm. Contact
6th March: North Coast activities in partnership with Causeway Coast & Glens Council
7th March: First Steps Women’s Centre Dungannon. 11am – 1pm. Contact
7th March: Northwest Migrants Forum Awards City of Derry. 7pm (Tickets)
8th March: Feile schools visit (Private. Contact
8th March: Ulster University Belfast, 5.30pm – 7.30pm (Tickets)
9th March: Belfast IWD in partnership with Reclaim the Agenda. procession starts. (speeches12.30pm)

10th March – 15th March: London programme / visits
You can also contact us for more information.

Sadie Harrison and Darren Ferguson (Beyond Skin) will be accompanying Alina at events. Sadie Harrison is a composer known particularly for the socio-political aspects of music-making with several works challenging stereotypes of marginalised peoples – refugees, Afghan women, the deaf, the homeless – celebrating their creativity and individuality with powerful expressions of musical solidarity. For several years, Sadie also pursued a secondary career as an archaeologist. Reflecting her interest in the past, many of her compositions have been inspired by the traditional musics of old and extant cultures with cycles of pieces based on the folk music of Afghanistan, Lithuania, the Isle of Skye, the Northern Caucasus and the UK.


"It was through Sadie I connected to Alina. The weeks and months that followed the fall of Kabul many of us connected with Afghanistan were receiving hundreds of disturbing messages of desperation from Afghan people seeking help. .It was heartbreaking and we all still get people reaching out for help, especially women musicians and artists now under gender apparthied and ban on creative expresion by the regime. Although Alina is now in Bangladesh it has been very challengling to get visa permissions for her visit to Northern Ireland and London. Considering the challenges Alina has overcome it was never burden making the effort. I am absolutely overjoyed Alina will visit Belfast, a UNESCO City of Music, very significant, and she will also attend events in Dungannon, Newtownabbey and City of Derry."


Joining Alina of the panel at the Feile schools International Women's Day events are...

"I am Behnaz Mafakheri, a Kurdish young woman, I was in Kurdistan until I was 9 years old, and then I grew up in Tehran, the capital of Iran, I finished my studies at the University of Urban Engineering and Architecture. Life in Iran as a woman and being a Kurd faces many challenges. I have different work experiences, before I came to the UK I worked in my family restaurant, now I am in Belfast, what is important to me here is the feeling of safety and freedom."

"I am Rachel James, originally from England and of Guyanese heritage. I have been living in the Causeway Coast & Glens for 11 years. I am passionate about equality, diversity, and inclusion and I am involved in Ulster University's 'Black Ethnic Minority Ethnic Network’, which has led me to working with local, national, and cross border inclusion initiatives. I am a Cultural Ambassador for the Building Communities Resources Centre, Ballymoney giving  keynote talks and presentations on Black British history and parent’s migration to the UK. I am a singer, songwriter and worship leader in my local church and I love to travel and experience new cultures."