When I was twelve years old, I had my first marriage proposal. The person was my aunt’s sixteen-year-old grandson. My parents were furious at the boy’s family because I was a child who didn’t know the meaning of marriage. In addition, I had three older sisters who were single and I was supposed to be the last in line.
When I was fourteen, another person asked my parents’ permission to propose to me. He was a rich twenty-four-year-old man. At that time, two of my sisters were married, although an older sister was still single.
At first, I was not concerned about this proposal because I thought my parents would deny this person the same way that they had denied the other one. However, I was wrong. This time, my parents not only liked the guy—they were also pleased by his wealth. As a result, I became worried my parents would accept the offer and I started to plan how to tell them I did not want to marry the person. In my family, it is disrespectful for a child to stand against the parents’ decisions. I was too shy to talk to my parents face-to-face. Instead, I decided to write the following letter:
My dear parents, please accept that I am not prepared to get married. I am fourteen years old and I need to find my life’s way. In order to do this, I must become educated. I need to have new experiences to become independent and to help my country’s women.
First, I know that you both want the best for me. You helped me to walk, talk, and eat, and while I was sick you stayed awake with me all night. I just want you to know that I don’t need a partner to take care of me. I can be independent and take care of myself.
Second, this is the best time for me to get a better education and learn new skills. You know that in Afghanistan we don’t have enough educated people. I feel this as my responsibility to get an education and help my people. For almost six years during the Taliban regime, the schools were closed for the girls. Now that I have the opportunity to get my education, I want to use this opportunity. I want to travel to the other countries and study in a better system. I am like a bird in a cage, I want to fly to other countries and see new people with new cultures.
Third, today the women in Afghanistan are the poorest women in the world. They don’t have any rights, but in other countries, women have the same rights as men. The women in Afghanistan don’t have the right to choose, to work outside of their homes or to get an education. Most women in Afghanistan are punished and hit by their husbands or brothers if they don’t obey them. Dear parents, you know that women in Afghanistan need help to understand their rights. So I want to become a lawyer to know and understand their rights, and to fight this injustice. I don’t want to be one of these women; I want to help them.
My dear parents, you are angry with me because you think if I become a lawyer, I would be killed. But I cannot stop trying because of this. It is very important for me to finish my education successfully and help my country’s poor women.
At the end, I promise you that I will be an independent person and I will try my best to become an honest lawyer to fight for women’s rights. I will make you happy and proud if you let me do this.
Your daughter always,
After writing the letter, I placed it on my parents’ bed. That night I slept poorly; I was worried about my parents’ reactions and I was thinking about what other ways I might be able to change their minds if they rejected my letter. My sisters said nothing to me, but I felt they were not happy with me for writing the letter. Even though I was eager to know my parents’ reaction, I decided to go to school early and wait until after school when my father would be at work and I would see only my mother, since I am more open with my mom. When I returned from school, my mother’s smile showed she was proud of me. She told me she and my father would try their best to help me accomplish my goals.
As a result, after that I entered a program to study in the United States for one year and then I worked for women’s rights for two years. Now I am in college and getting closer to achieving my goals of receiving an education to help women in Afghanistan, and I’m becoming more independent every day. Until today, my father still talks about me writing that letter. I think he is proud and happy for what I did.