The AAUW Women’s Community Project held an event in Second Life this month, a talk by Millay Freschi on RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. RAWA is now over 30 years old, and was founded as an independent social and political organization fighting for human rights and social justice. They are committed to a free, independent, democratic and secular Afghanistan, and do a great deal of difficult work in women’s education and healthcare.
After the talk Trill Zapatero led a tour to the Afghanistan Museum. Trill built the museum in support of RAWA and all donations go to support their work. We spent quite some time learning about the geography, history and culture of Afghanistan, beginning with the RAWA exhibit, which really has to be seen to be appreciated.
We often hear that learning in a virtual space is contextualized and experiential. The Afghanistan museum is a fine example of this kind of learning. Standing outside the RAWA exhibit, my avatar had to keep her eye out for the snakes (Ellie HATES snakes). What was most upsetting, though, was the drone surveillance plane circling above. It was uncomfortable to be out in the open, not knowing what kind of virtual miscreant you might be mistaken for. Ellie really wanted to get inside.
But getting inside isn’t easy, and that’s the whole point of the RAWA exhibit. You must experience the need for shelter. While you are looking for a way in, you learn what it is like for many Afghan women, who have no shelter. It was a powerful experience.
I would recommend seeing the Afghanistan Museum before the RAWA exhibit, as it provides context, but because of the number of people taking the tour, we began with the RAWA exhibit, then moved to the Afghanistan museum. The tour of the museum begins by knocking on the door (double click), then clicking a magic carpet that will take you up to a house in the mountains. There is also a mosque, but Ellie did not enter it; it’s a mark of the immersive nature of this installation that she didn’t feel she was dressed properly, and as she didn’t have time to change, she decided to come another time.
The Afghanistan museum itself is not large, but there’s an amazing amount of content to see; expect to take your time as you go through. The first room deals with the geography of the region; there’s nothing like standing next to a 3D map to put things in perspective. Other exhibits are just as informative. I was particularly interested to learn about the many different ethnic groups of Afghanistan. There are also displays on everyday life in Afghanistan, music, and national dress.
It was a great tour, I know Ellie learned a great deal, and she even took the link to the Boho Hobo, Trill’s clothing store. There are some wonderful Afghan-inspired clothes there, and all proceeds go to support girls’ education in Afghanistan.