On a day when it was very cold and windy, the wind brought the news of a child who was not yet in the world. Soon it would be time for the child to be born, entering into a world of expectations. Until then, maybe this child did not know where it was going, or why, or what people would expect from the child.

A family also waited to hear from the doctor. And there was a pregnant mother waiting for her child. She had not thought about the pains she was suffering, because she was worrying. She had lost two daughters already, yet she had to have a child because her in-laws were violent. That is why her daughters had died.

After one hour in hospital, the nurse came and told the mother in-law, “Congratulations! You have a grand-daughter.”

The mother-in-law said, “Thanks to Allah for giving us this gift although it is not a son. It is okay it is a daughter.”

This child was me, Seeta.

Because I was a girl, the mean words and violence began towards me at that time. When my uncle who was only 11 went to tell my aunts about my birth, they responded: “Thanks for the news, but this is not a son.” Or they said, “My poor brother, after years he got a daughter. Oohhh, daughter, daughter….”

This was not my sin or my mother’s sin. This was the sex that Allah gave to me. It is not changeable by a mother.

As years passed and I grew up, my father loved me a lot; my mother too. But the other people—my uncles and aunts and even the neighbors—they used to tell my mom she is very unlucky to not have a son.

My mother was educated and she responded, “I am young and maybe Allah will give me a son.” This became a dream. Her second and third children were born, but they were daughters.

We three sisters always were disappointed that none of us was a son, but my father said, “I raise my daughters the same as boys, even better.” People did not stop their bad words against us. Nobody thought about how if we believe in Allah, then we should accept Allah’s wishes.

As I grew up I was very sad. I even hated myself for being a girl and, in the future, a woman. When I reached seven years old, I told my father, “Dad, you should not worry that you do not have a son. I will work for you the same as a son and then people will say to you, ‘Ohhh what a brave daughter you have.’ ”

My father smiled and said, “My dear, you are right. You are also human and have power, but you never can change to a son and it is very difficult for you to do the work that a son can do.”

I told him, “Yes, Father, you are right. Possibly I cannot do the same work that a son can do, but I will be a help for you in the future.”

My father did not say anything and left me with a world of my childhood wishes. He sent me to school. I was in love with my school. In the first grade I became the third student with 95 percent marks. My father was very proud. My uncle’s sons were uneducated. When the Taliban took power in Afghanistan I had to stay at home like other girls.

We left for the city of Nimroz where my father had opened a small shop. The shop was far from our house and every day I took my father’s lunch to him. After lunch he used to leave the shop so he could go to the mosque for his prayers. I was the younger shopkeeper. The other shopkeepers were surprised at how I managed the shop and sold things to the customers.

After Nimroz we left for Iran. During that time I helped my father when he was traveling to do his business. Because he was an Afghan he was not allowed to work, but I dressed like an Iranian and I was a child, so police were kind and did not say anything while my father did his work. At that time we three sisters were studying in Iran. At home we worked by cleaning pistachios to help our father.

For years and years I was a support to my father: shopping, working, and studying. I have done a lot to show my father I can do the work that a son can do.

My father was happy in front of me and my sisters. But outside the family he was not happy. His mother and brothers wanted him to marry again. When we heard this—me and my sisters and my mother—we sat at home in a dark room. We could only cry and cry that Father has to have a son.

Who can change Allah’s decision?

The girl’s family changed their mind and told my father, “You have three good, educated daughters. You can live with them.” My father changed his decision to marry again after that.

After the fall of the Taliban regime we came back to Afghanistan. We had no house and my father did not have a good salary so I decided to find a job. A project was opening in my province where they needed teachers to teach adult students. I was 15 and in ninth grade, but I went for the interview. I succeeded because I had studied in Iran. In the morning I went to school and in the afternoon I taught my class. My students were older than I, but I enjoyed teaching them, and with my salary we could have enough food.

When I graduated I did not pay attention to my higher education because of economic problems. I started work. I helped my father to buy a small house—it was ours—we could live there without problems. Then we got medicine for my mother, and then we bought a car. Not a very expensive car, but it can take us somewhere.

After years, my uncles and my aunts said, “Your daughters are better than my sons. We have sons, but we do not have a good life like yours.”

After years and lots of violence against us, now they say that there is no difference between boys and girls.

But it is very late. My mom suffered problems from all the violence; we never felt happiness because of our gender. I now have a brother too. He was born after 17 years in Afghanistan and he is three years old and so lovely. When I go to ceremonies my cousins no longer tell their friends that we do not have a brother.

Today I am happy that I was born a daughter, not a son. Some of my friends say to me, “Seeta, you are a man, not a woman.”

But I say, “I prefer to be called a woman.”

By Seeta

Photo by Martin van Asseldonk