I am a woman who wants freedom. Freedom from rules made for women only, rules that don’t let me choose my life partner and follow my dreams. Freedom from rules that prohibit me from traveling and making my own decisions and living my own life.

I want freedom from laws, the ones that allow men to have power over me, control me, block me from participating in developing my country. I want freedom from the laws that limit my work to the home and raising children.

I am a woman who has lacked a voice for centuries, who suffered tremendous pain between battles for power. I was not allowed to be educated; I was cut off from the rest of the world and forced to wear the burqa. I am a woman who was exchanged as Baad, the ancient tradition where a girl is traded to settle a dispute between families.

I am a woman who fears to dream, to walk alone, to fall in love. I am a woman who cries every night from the pain in our society: children standing outdoors to look for work in the cold days of winter; old men working hard when they should be at home relaxing; the pain of seeing the powerful violating everyone’s rights; the pain of corruption ruling my country.

I am a woman who does not want to be judged for talking with my friends of a different gender, or for laughing out loud, expressing my ideas, fighting for my rights and going out alone. I am a woman who wants to get rid of the cage that limits my movement and my life.

I am a woman who desires freedom for my fellow women and thanks God for the precious moments of life given to me to try and bring change.

I am the daughter of parents who helped me in my life’s battles and taught me how to stand and fight for myself in this world full of danger.

I am a woman who smiles in the face of the day.

By Marzia

Photo: Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images