On This International Day of the Girl, Remember Afghanistan

As Nicholas Kristof stated, “Talent is universal; opportunity is not.” On every corner of the earth, there are millions of talented children who are denied getting an education due to war, poverty, harmful traditions and lack of resources.  I was one of those children. I could not go to school for five years. I know how it feels not being able to go to school. Going to school was a dream for me. When I went to Iran to visit my grandmother, I was so sad to see how girls in Iran could go to school and I could not. There were days when I decorated my room like a classroom and pretended that I was in school.

After the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, my dream came true. I could go to school. Sitting on the bench of my classroom, I felt like I was on the top of the world. I loved my books and notebooks. I even took them to my bed with me and slept with their smell. When I first started school at the age of twelve, I could read, but I couldn’t write. After I learned how to write, I became one of the top students in my classes.

I grew up in a big family. I had to share the three rooms of our house with my parents and six siblings. It was very hard for me to study in one room with eight other people who wanted to talk at the same time and watch television. But I found a solution: I went to the roof to study there. It was nice and quiet on the roof, although birds were bothering me by pooping on my books and notebooks sometimes. I would not give up my favorite corner of the roof for anything. But there were days that I had to, to avoid the gunfire and noisy helicopters that were flying above our home.

I found my English language class most interesting. No matter how hard I worked, I always made mistakes with grammar rules. I started to take an English class outside of my school and paid extra money to learn English. My older brother and sister helped me to pay for my transportation and for class. Sometimes I had to walk for an hour to get to my class, in hot days and cold winter days it was not easy. Once it was a very cold snowy day, my mother asked me not to go to my English class because she thought nobody would come, but I went. My mother was right, nobody was there. My hands and legs were numb by the time I got home. Another time there was a fight happening between Herat’s governor and one of his enemies, I was in my English class. When the war started, I ran to go home, but there was no bus. My brother had to come and take me home. My family was worried that somebody might use the bad situation to kidnap me.

School became my only hobby. I did not even want to go to the wedding parties. I believed weddings were for people who wanted to show off their beautiful dresses and gold jewelry. I was not that kind of person. Sometimes I became sad when girls got married. I felt that they were losing their freedom and opportunity of becoming educated and independent women. Many of my classmates did not come back to school after their summer vacations because they got married.

I was born and raised in a country where traditions and cultures are more valued than girls’ and women’s talents and education. I started to receive marriage proposals when I was twelve. There were days when I came home and saw group of strange women at the house to propose me and my sisters for marrying their sons. Hearing my parents talking about me getting married was the most frustrating thing. There were days that I had to fight to change my parents mind about me getting married.

Now I am among the few women in Afghanistan who has a college education. We came a long way to get where we are. Now that I survived all the struggles to get my education, I want to help other girls and women around the world to get their education. On every corner of this world there are women and girls who are fighting to get their education.

My mother always told me that she feels like a blind person for not being able to read and write. She wants me and my sisters get an education so we wouldn’t fallow her destiny. I believe girls all around the world deserve an education and equal opportunities. I had the support of both men and women to get where I am now. I still have a long way to go, but throughout my journey I have always want to help other women and girls who may need assistance. So we will have more women leaders all around the world who will help their sisters.

Education not only helps women to improve their lives, but it also helps nations become strong and independent. Women will have more self-confidence and value themselves. They will know about their rights and how to make better decision and choices.  Women will be able to take a better care of themselves and their children. Women make up half the sky, if they don’ have the right to get an education, their country will never improve. Today’s Afghanistan is an example of that. Since women don’t have as many rights and educational opportunities, they are dependent on men and my country is dependent on other countries.

When women get an education, they can teach their children to respect women’s rights. When people of the society know about the rights of women, they respect these rights and follow the laws; education provides the foundation to solving the problems women face today.

In many parts of the world, women and girls don’t get an education because of war, poverty and harmful cultures and traditions. I believe positives changes happen when we all do something for those women and girls who don’t have as many opportunities as we have. On this International Day of the Girl, lets remember those girls and find a way to help them.

Photo courtesy of CentCom via Creative Commons 2.0.