My Parents’ Dream Was an Education for Me

I believe in the equality of women. All women, all over the world, hold up half the sky. But in Afghanistan, women are not equal partners to men.  Consider that 85 percent of Afghan women are illiterate because they are denied proper education.

I grew up as the youngest of five children. My life was filled with a passion for learning.  My mother was the principal of a girl’s high school. She filled our house with books and made it beautiful by teaching my two brothers, two sisters, and me. She even advanced my father’s education. As a result, one of my brothers is a doctor, and the other is an engineer. Both my sisters have graduated from university.

My mother was totally dedicated to our education. When our family experienced financial difficulty, my mother sold her jewelery to buy books for my brother.

Too Dangerous to Study

In 1996, when I was nine years old, the Taliban took control of the government, and education for girls stopped. I didn’t know what was going on, but I could tell that my mother was worried about our education when she began teaching my sisters and me math and literature at home.

Because she didn’t know English, I studied English with a tutor. I remember one day the Taliban saw me when I was going to my English class with books under my burqa. They tried to follow me. That was when I realized how dangerous it was both for girls who wanted an education and for those who took the chance of teaching them.

I could not understand why men could be educated, but not women. I was discouraged and scared. But my mother did not give up; she continued with our lessons at home in spite of the risks.

After the Taliban rule ended in 2001, women began to advance, but still there was a big gap between the quality of education for women and men. I was the only one in my family whose education was incomplete. After I graduated from high school, I had a chance to attend a private university in Kabul. 

This was the first time I would be away from home. As I left for Kabul, my mother said that when I was finished with my studies, all of her responsibilities will have been fulfilled. She said I was the only one of her children she was worried about. Little did I know that it was the last time I would see her alive. She was killed in a car accident in 2008. Suddenly, I was alone with the responsibility to build my education and a future.

The world stopped

It was a total shock. The world stopped. It was hard to accept the reality of losing the most valuable person in my life. I stopped doing everything. Life meant nothing without her. I was living without a reason for being and without hope. I didn’t study.

My father encouraged me to try to complete my mother’s wish and finish my education. When he took me back to Kabul to continue my studies, he reminded me how my mother had told me she wanted me to graduate and become a lawyer. He told me that he knew I would come back to Afghanistan one day to complete my mother’s wish. He said, “I’m so proud of you.”

With the memory of my mother and the support of my father, my determination to continue my education increased, and I studied for one year at the School of Leadership Afghanistan to improve my English. The founders of SOLA helped me to build my confidence when I had almost given up. They showed me how I could help my country’s people by learning to speak up, and that I could be a good example for other women.

And that is how, on September 3, 2010, I found myself at Salem State University. When I stepped through the gates at Boston’s Logan airport I was welcomed by my host parents and the leader of the Applied Ethics outreach program, which was giving me the opportunity to pursue my education.

American Scholarship

This was to be my first time travelling alone and I would be the first person from my family to study outside Afghanistan. It took me two months to convince my family to let me go to America to study. This experience made me realize that if we want to do something in life, we have to work hard because our dreams do not come easily.

I spent the year in the United States not only studying political science, but telling Americans about my country. I gave speeches about Afghan women and how hard they work and how brave and strong they are. I told them about the things hidden behind the way in the culture and food and customs. It was interesting for them to learn about Afghan people.

After a year away from home, I was excited to return home, but at the same time I had learned my father was ill. My brother called to tell me to come home soon.

I spent two months at home with my father. Once again he told me, “Try to finish your studies. I am okay. I am so proud of you. You finished a year of study there. I am sure your mother would be proud of you. I know one day my daughter will be a very important person and help her country.”

It is hard for me to explain my feelings about losing my father and being alone again. I have promised myself that I will keep my parents’ dreams alive and somehow complete my studies. I have come a very long way and worked very hard to reach my goals. I don’t want to have wasted my year and a half studying in the United States.

Mazar-e-Sharif

I am back home in northern Afghanistan and now I study by myself. I want to go to America to finish two more years of study. I want to help my people, especially women, through education. I want to open a library for women and a school in my city of Mazar-e-Sharif. I have seen in my country only years of war, blood and dead bodies, and the hopelessness and discrimination against women. I have heard only the crying of women and seen them begging on the street.

I keep asking myself: When will Afghan women be treated as human beings? When will Afghan men stop killing and selling them? Afghan women have been through so much emotional and psychological stress. Nonetheless, they keep going. I want to help women but this is not my only goal. I want to see my country peaceful and educated, and see men and women work together to bring peace to Afghanistan.

By Shogofa

Visit the SOLA website


Comments

  1. Wilhelmina says:

    Shogofa,
    You are so brave and so strong. You write beautifully. Never silence your pen. Please continue your studies for you, for your mother, for your father, and for Afghanistan.

  2. Wilhelmina says:

    Shogofa,
    Thank you for your wonderful and brave story. I hope that you will be able to complete your studies and build the library and school. Always remember your parents’ wishes for you.

    Wilhelmina

  3. Shogofa — This is a beautifully written essay. How wonderful that your parents were so supportive of you getting an education. I know it must be a struggle to continue with your studies but your parents would be really proud of how far you have gone so far. I hope you’ll keep writing and not give up on your studies. Afghanistan needs women like you to lead uneducated women so that they too can make better lives for themselves. You are an inspiration. Nancy

  4. Shogofa,
    Thank you for sharing your history. You were lucky to have such a supportive family, but it is your own strength that has taken you so far. I know you will be a force for change in Afghanistan. Your writing is already making a difference.

  5. Lorraine says:

    Shogofa,

    I am sorry for the loss of your parents. You describe them as individuals who loved you very much and wanted the best for you.

    “This experience made me realize that if we want to do something in life, we have to work hard because our dreams do not come easily.” Although the obstacles may be different, the words that you have written about your experience hold true for those of us who pursue our dreams in any country and any language.
    Thank you for writing so expressively about your desire to be educated. Your message is valuable. I will share it with my students who complain often about having to attend school, do homework, complete projects, and write essays. They do not realize how fortunate they are to be recepients of a free education.

  6. Shogofa,
    I am both inspired and stunned by your determination to pursue your education in spite of the odds and many hurdles you faced. I am so sorry about losing your parents, but it seems as if you have channeled the loss of them into propelling forward to achieve your goals, as they wanted that for you, fiercely. This really puts it into perspective as an American woman. Education is something both myself and others as a whole take for granted. I can’t imagine my safety being threatened in the name of the pursuit of knowledge.

  7. kanu gulati says:

    Dear Shogofa,
    Your determination is very inspiring. I hope and wish that you continue your education and make your parents’ dreams come true. You have shown so much courage throughout your life, and you still want to study further to be able to help others. Wow! It is very admirable.
    Regards,
    kanu

  8. You told your story so beautifully. I am so sorry for the loss of your parents. Please continue to be brave and work for your people, especially the women. I think of you every day.
    Kathy

  9. Thank for your story, I loved it. I hope that your journey was not all sadness . I love that your mom was very aure about your education. My mother is a teacher and is also very proud of my education as well . I hope you are proud of yourself , I am. Thanks McKinley

  10. Shagofo,

    I really like this essay because it taught me that many dreams are worth living for. This really got to me because I love my parents and they really care about my education. I remember when I was little I read a couple of books that were like this essay. Altogether I think this essay was well written (which is very important), easy to read (probably kids from 8-15 or so would enjoy this essay), and finally it gets to people who really care about each other. Shagofo, this essay really gave me a good idea about Afghan women’s lives, and now I have a way higher respect for you. This essay was the best one I’ve ever read. I really enjoy reading about your lives, Afghanistan, and many other cultures.

    Forrest

  11. Hello, Shagoofa, I imagine that now you are a very different woman than the shy girl I met in 2010. You sound so much more confident telling your well-written story. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your father as well as your mother. Please keep up your studies. You have so much to offer Afghanistan and the world. I feel honored to have met you. Peggy

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