I still remember this proverb from my childhood, when my mother told me that if I wanted to reach somewhere I must try myself and not rely on anyone else. Her words made me think of bravery and strength.
I started trying to live like this when I turned twelve and noticed that all the other children in our neighborhood went biking every evening. They did this as a group, racing each other and trying to win. One day I thought to myself, “Why are they all boys and no girls among them?” This thought brought me to a decision.
I told my father that I want him to buy me a bicycle. My father bought me a new bicycle and asked my brother to teach me to ride it. I learned within a week and then I told my brother that I wanted to join the kids who raced in the evening and I wanted to win.
He was surprised and told me there were no girls among them. But I told him, “That doesn’t matter, I don’t care, I want to be the first girl to start.” My father was the first one who told my brother that I could join their group.
In those times it wasn’t usual for girls to do the same things as boys. But there are different traditions among families. For example, in my family my father didn’t have any problem if my brother or I did the same activities, but my uncle had a very different opinion and he didn’t allow his daughters to ride a bike.
Sometimes, my uncle tried to create problems for me by saying to my father that I am a girl and such activities do not look good for me. But my father told him that if we try hard for both our daughters and sons and provide them the same opportunities, they could do whatever they want.
So I joined the boys who raced in the evening. After three days I noticed that other girls from our neighborhood were joining our team. Then we made two groups. From that moment on, I knew that I must try hard to do what I want and make my own choices.
Later on when I graduated from high school, my mother told me that university studies were my choice. She advised me, but left the final decision to me alone.
I know that as women it is our responsibility to reach to tallest mountain, but we should also accept the reality that, in the context of Afghanistan, if we don’t have our parents’ support sometimes we will encounter problems and our development will be hindered.
It is also our own responsibility to try something first before saying we can’t do it. When I graduated I told myself that now I have to plan and make decisions myself. I pretended that I didn’t have my parents with me so I would have to endure difficulties to reach success by myself.
I felt like this when I went abroad to start my higher studies. On the first night, I missed my parents; I cried for an hour and went to sleep without having dinner.
But in the morning I thought to myself that I must be brave; if I’m not brave I can’t go ahead and no one will be responsible for my failure apart from myself. After a week I felt better and learned how to manage my time, juggling my studies and some time for enjoyment.
In simple words, I can say if we women want to do something we can. If no one tries to interfere with our decision and create burdens for us then all women can reach the top of the mountain.
Photo of Afghan National Women’s Cycling Team members by Shannon Galpin.