Kill Silence

young girl 2I was youngest in my family. Everyone loved me a lot when I was child. I talked very cute and because of that, all loved me. But I can remember my mother admonishing my sisters about how they should always behave like good girls, always look down when they go outside, don’t talk with anyone, just go straight there and come straight home. One of my sisters was studying in the college. My mother told her every day, “Don’t talk with boys. Be polite. Wear your veil like a good girl.”

In our family, if we needed to make a big decision, only the boys—meaning my brothers—had the right to speak. We were not allowed to talk whenever we wanted to. They said to us, “Be silent, don’t talk, you don’t have the right to say anything.” Then we had to be silent.

After years passed, I became a young woman and I also followed what my mother said to my sisters about being a good girl, not talking, staying silent. I did whatever my father and mother and brothers said. Then everyone in the family liked me because I was always quiet. But sometimes I asked myself why I was so shy and couldn’t defend myself.

For example, in school, I saw other girls playing, shouting, enjoying themselves, but I couldn’t. It even had a bad effect on my grades. One of my teachers cut my score on an exam even though I was right. When I asked her why, she told my mother, “Your daughter is intelligent but very shy, and so for that I cut her score. I want to know that she can defend herself.”

Once when my brother did something wrong, my father didn’t beat him. He came and beat me, even though it wasn’t my fault. I was silent; that is why.

Step by step, being silent had a bad effect on my life. I went to Kabul to study in college. It was very difficult for me to talk with people. I was just afraid. In class, I knew the entire lesson, but when the teacher asked me something, I didn’t have the courage to explain. I felt really badly when other students were laughing at me. They thought I didn’t know anything. Because I was silent, I failed at the university. I just hated myself. I was too afraid to even tell people I am Hazara.

One day, one of my friends asked me, “Why are you crying?” I didn’t say anything. Then she said, “Cry as much as you can. I didn’t say stop. You have to cry.”

I just looked at her and said, “I am a loser.”

She laughed very loud and said, “No, you’re not a loser. You’re the best. You just have to kill silence. You have to speak up. Say whatever comes in your mind. Don’t be ashamed. Everyone here is the same. No one is better than any other.” After this, she told me one more thing: “No one can give you your rights. You have to grab your rights.”

That night I thought a lot about what she told me. Then I started to change myself day by day. After one year, I went home totally changed. I tried to teach to others: don’t keep your child silent, and don’t punish her, let her grow up naturally. I am not the only victim of this kind of lesson. Most girls are humiliated and kept silent because they are girls. One thing I want to say in the end: as much we women are quiet or keep silent, we are destroying our lives and our future.

Kill silence and take your rights.

By Shogofa

An Afghan girl in Deh Rawod, Afghanistan, November of 2008. Photo by John Scott Rafoss. 


Comments

  1. Hi Shogofa,

    Yours is the first story/essay I’ve read on here and I just wanted to let you know how powerful your words are. Thank you for killing your silence. Please continue to do so.

    yours truly,
    Heidi in Minnesota

  2. Wonderful writing blog project, wonderful piece, am so thrilled to read more…
    Best to you courageous women
    Layla

  3. Ann Blackman says:

    Hi Shogofa,

    Wonderful, compelling essay. Try this lesson I learned from my journalism teacher years ago. After you write a paragraph, stand on a chair and read it aloud. It helped me learn to speak in public!

    Best, Ann

  4. Hi Shogofa,
    It’s been really nice watching you grow as a writer. What a powerful last line.
    Take care,
    Lu

  5. Naomi Benaron says:

    Hi Shogofa,
    These beautiful words you write shout from the page. I am going to read them to my 101 class in Tucson, Arizona, at the Community College. If everyone learned your lessons, wars would not happen. Holocausts and genocide would not happen. Hateful acts of violence would not happen. Thank you for your courage.
    Take care,
    Naomi

  6. maile hatfield says:

    Hi Shogofa-

    Your thoughtful story will bring inspiration to women around the world. Thank you for having the courage to share this with all of us.

  7. Alice Polesky says:

    Your personal qualities amaze and humble me, Shogofa. You are courageous in challenging those around you who try to steal your soul. You’re open-minded enough to change your world view and take a chance on yourself. You’re open-hearted enough not to be bitter and hateful about what has been and continues to be done to you. And you speak with a clear, strong voice.

    Continue to keep your voice strong over the noise that surrounds you.

    We are sisters.

    Alice

  8. Dear Shogofa,

    I am so happy that you have been able to change and are spreading the word to help other girls and women. You are brave and will continue to grow and help others. I hope you are continuing or have continued with your university studies; you have much to offer!

  9. Gail Jones says:

    Shogofa, I can see your beauty in your words. What you have to say is important. Never, never stay silent again.

    With love from New Mexico, USA

  10. Kate Martin says:

    Dear Shogofa,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story, and for breaking the silence in person and in writing. Your story was beautiful and inspiring.

  11. Donna DeVito says:

    Dearest Shogofa,

    Your story has touched me in more ways than one. I feel your struggles, and admire your strenght and courage to endure all that you have in your young life. You have stood up for something extremely important and it makes me extremely proud to have met you and have had time to share with you. You are a very special human being. As a mother, I applaud your courage and wish you continued success in all of your endevours. Continue to speak the truth and the path of life will always be open to you!! You are an inspiration!

  12. Margaret Wood says:

    You are giving your voice life, what a wonderful courageous step. I have no idea if I would have your courage in your circumstances, maybe not, maybe I would. I live in such a different place yet I still struggle to give my voice full life, thank you for your words of wisdom. My pedge to you is that I will allow my own voice to speak out my truth more clearly, I will increase my encouragement to the women around me and I will watch for your voice and listen again.

  13. Asma Amiri says:

    Shogoga jan, I enjoyed reading your story and surprised how you broke your silence. You choose the best way and succeed!

    Asma,

  14. Your words are powerful. The way you describe the personal growth over time especially touched me, as if I can visualize your struggle, confusion and transition through this process of searching for one’s own voice, or identity. To some extent, I felt so connected because I was born in a country where free speech only exists in daydream; everywhere the police are watching carefully for dissents. However, peculiar circumstances did not steal your desire to live positively. Your courage and ambition to stand up for women’s rights encourages me to do the same, and to give my voice full life. Thank you for sharing this life-changing experience!

  15. Gabriel Lopes says:

    Many feminist movements proclaiming women’s rights have been going on lately, especially in Brazil. It is terrible to think that women are still treated like you were, basically invisible to society. You were raised in a household where women had no opinion. You are a strong woman for keeping faith in humanity even when in school your teacher gave you a bad grade just to see if you would defend yourself. I deeply admire you for going to college, striving to be better with communication since you were deprived of that as a child, and finally going back home and telling people to kill the silence. We must let women speak. We can’t make kids stay silent because that will ruin their future and their lives.

  16. Hi Shogofa,
    Your story is very inspirational to me and many others. You chose to kill the silence and speak up for yourself. Your persistence and ability to change yourself is motivational. It gives many others and me the encouragement to make changes in our daily lives since it was way more difficult for you to overcome a habitat that your mom enforced allowing only the boys in the family to speak. It was a hard habit to break, but you were strong enough to overcome it. Reading your story gave me a reason to never be afraid to speak out for what isn’t right or what I don’t believe in. Your circumstances are very different than mine, but I am still able to relate with you. When you hit rock bottom and had to make a change, I am able to understand how you felt to fall down and get up and not stop pushing. I hope you are able to spread your concept of not keeping your child silent and not punishing her, letting her grow naturally. Don’t ever give up!

  17. Shogofa,

    In your writing about killing the silence you showed me what it really must be like for a woman who doesn’t get the same advantages as a man. It’s incredible to me how far you have come compared to the girl you wrote about. Now you’re voicing your opinion in your own way by writing for others to read about and it is so inspirational. You and every other person in this world deserves to experience life to the fullest which means that sometimes you have to be loud and be the center of attention. I’m glad I read your piece and congratulations on killing the silence!

  18. Shogofa,
    I find your story very inspirational, and am looking forward to sharing it with my high school class in the United States.

  19. Shogofa,
    Your story hits a cord with my emotions and it’s hard to believe that something like your story can really happen. It opens my eye’s to the tragedies that do not happen so close to home.

  20. Camille Frazier says:

    Shogofa,
    A lot of people in the world are silent when it comes to many things, no matter whose fault it was. By writing this, you have shown me that women should speak up for themselves and defend what they want to without any petty consequences. I feel that everyone should read this essay, because anyone can be affected by a deadly silence. This is a very inspirational essay.
    Camille

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