Many Afghan women are opting to get their bodies inked, not just for aesthetics but also as a form of silent rebellion and empowerment. In a deeply conservative society such as Afghanistan, tattoos, especially on women, are considered un-Islamic and taboo.
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Misinformation about the subject of women’s health and hygiene is widespread, and young women are nudged toward traditional — and often unhealthy — practices to cope with their biological development. These include everything from avoiding vegetables in the diet to not bathing for the duration of a period — a purported hedge against infertility. This, coupled with the lack of access to affordable hygiene products, has resulted not only in poor physical and mental health, but also in girls dropping out of school after they begin to menstruate.
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“Even now, popular culture fails to represent the work of female detectives correctly,” she says criticising Bollywood films like Bobby Jasoos which overly sexualise the women detectives. “A lot of research and meticulous planning goes into every case that detectives, especially the women, undertake.” Pandit also takes into account the mental well-being of a potential client. “For me, it is imperative that what I do benefits the clients and not plunge them further into depression because often the truth can be bitter,” she explains, adding how she involves and advises professional counselling where needed.
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Despite being a respected figure in the community due to her years of work—and one failed attempt at running for parliament—it was hard at first for Sofi to convince women to join the gym. “A lot of my initial clients came recommended from doctors in the neighborhood who knew me well,” she says, adding that her oldest son is also a doctor practicing in India. “Eventually, the word spread and now women come to me because they’ve heard about the benefits of going to a gym."