I was born in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, the oldest child of Afghani parents, with one brother and one sister. My childhood experiences in Afghanistan during the rule of the Taliban make me understand the difficulties people in such situations face, and makes me try my best to help my community through my education. Of these experiences, I want to speak.

When I reached the age of seven, I realized my father was an unfaithful, dishonest person who had never loved my mother, never shared his thoughts with her, and always lied about his business and his private life. He never liked to take care of his kids and he always stayed out of the house for months and months without telling my mother. At that time, we lived with my maternal grandparents in Pakistan. They supported us financially and educationally and never let us feel that we had a careless father. They always encouraged us to get a better education and focus on our future. My mom always hoped that one day my father would come back and we would have our own house. Unfortunately, this hope ended when my mother was informed that my father was celebrating his engagement party. After hearing this news, my mom fainted and became withdrawn. She started thinking she was the reason that my father treated us like this. Then she planned to travel to the city where my father was living and make him understand that he had a family and did not need to have another. When she arrived there, my father was shocked that she had found out about his secret engagement party.

My parents argued with each other for many days, and unfortunately my father did not listen to my mom; he started planning his wedding. On the day of his wedding party, he took us to his uncle’s house and told us he had some important work to finish and that when he was done, he would come back and take us home. We did not know anything about his wedding party, but by the blessing of God, my grandmother arrived from Pakistan. When she saw the preparations for her son-in-law’s wedding party, she asked my father about her daughter and grandkids. My father kept quiet because he could not tell her the truth. Finally he let us leave. My mom did not say anything to my father because of her pain. She did not attend the wedding party of her husband because she did not want to see my father’s face, full of deceit.

My father offered to let us live with his second wife. My mom accepted and wanted to start a new life, but my stepmother started accusing my mom and did not want my mom to have any authority at home. My stepmom tried to create a bad environment inside the house. She told my father to divorce my mom and let his kids be uneducated. She wanted my mother and us children to be her servants. We were locked in the house and treated very badly. When my maternal grandparents found out how badly we were treated, they decided to try everything to get us back to Pakistan, and were successful. My grandparents were afraid for our future. When we returned, they enrolled my siblings and me at school and paid all our living expenses. I started to study very hard to have a better position in life and show my father I could achieve a better life that without his assistance. My mom always encouraged me to achieve my goals and never wanted us to feel that we were without a father. She is both a mother and a father.

In 2005, my grandparents decided to relocate, because by that time the Taliban regime had ended and the situation in Afghanistan was getting better. When we moved, I continued my education and attended high school as a first-year student. I took English and computer classes to improve my skills. After learning English, I started teaching young kids, because it seemed to me that by teaching others, I could learn myself. As a junior, I participated in a youth exchange program and was selected as a finalist. I received my visa to travel to the United States. That day was one the most memorable moments of my life, because I felt this was the first step out of our problems. Thanks to the support of my grandparents and my mother, I lived the United States for a year. I was admitted to high school as a junior and earned a 4.0. After a year, I came back to Afghanistan, and I will graduate this year.

I have faced many challenges in my life, but because of them, I realized how to become a stronger person. Now it is my wish to achieve my goals. I want to help and support helpless people who have same types of stories full of pain and tears. I want to give them the hope of a better life. And I want to bring back happiness to my mom and have our own house which would be full of love and trust. I want to show my father that my mother is not alone. Her daughter is with her.

By Jeena