The golden years of my life were from when I was eight until twelve. I smelled the sweet scent of flowers everywhere: in my house, on the streets, on the way to school, and even in the school garden. Roses grew in front of our house and whenever someone entered our home, they first smelled the rose fragrance.

No one told me that I could not go outside or play football with the other boys and girls. I had friends including boys and girls in our neighborhood and each evening we went together to the bazaar to buy toys. My favorite toy was an electric jangle with animals on it. We also loved to eat ice cream. Even now I can taste the ice cream that was made from fresh mango.

My family was happy and they gave me much freedom to do what I wanted. My mother told me that this was the age to enjoy playing and biking, tennis, football, and even running.

I will never get those days back again. Now when I look at my life, I find I am too busy to find the time to play a sport or I don’t remember how to play. I can never say “no” to anybody no matter how busy I am at work. In my organization there is only one woman in each department. Whenever one of these women needs me to write a report, develop a new budget sheet, or prepare a presentation for them, I will not say no. It kills me because I think about how upset they would be if I said no. In Afghanistan, women are so restricted from higher education that they do not have the opportunity to use all the resources that men do.

The most enjoyable time of my day is when I come home at night. My nieces are the entire thing for me. They are five, three, and two.  When I get home they all stand behind the door screaming, “Hello Aunt!” That’s the first thing I hear, and then they all hug me, finally asking, did I bring them chocolate? Their laughter makes me happy. Their childish chatter makes everyone laugh. When they cry, I will try any trick to get them to stop. Remembering my own happy childhood helps me focus on planning for a better future for myself and other Afghan women.

By Fariba