An Afghan Girl Educates Herself (part 2)


Part 1 of Kamilah’s essay.

I do not blame people who question my religion and culture because all they have heard about Afghanistan is war and violence. Most of the time when we talk or I give a presentation about Afghanistan they are happy to learn about my culture.

There are many positive points that I like about my culture. These include unity and sincerity within families, respect and love between people, and respect of family order. Although I love my culture, I don’t accept the absurd traditions that have been mixed with it.

I feel very sad when I hear my American classmates, friends, and other people around me talking about Afghanistan as a home for bomb blasts, suicide attacks, war, murder, and other crimes, but I feel lucky to have found a chance to change their views about my people and my country.

As a result of our talking about Afghanistan, one of my professors would like to go there and teach now. My culture class gave me the opportunity to share some of the beauty of Afghanistan and the generosity of Afghans with my school’s community. I brought changes to my school and I intend to bring more.

I always dreamed of being a journalist, of working with the BBC or CNN, and starting a media company in my province—a place where people still live in caves, have never heard of politics, and where women work tirelessly like machines and the girls walk four hours every day to get to school.

I am majoring in journalism. It is much easier to influence educated people through writing than arguing or having long discussions.

I have seen this when classmates react to the poem “And You Called Me Colored?” by an unknown author, or the Holocaust memoir “Night” by Elie Wiesel. 

I’ve seen how “The Kite Runner” by Khalid Hussaini moved the world. When I worked with the Afghan newspaper Adlu Refah as a reporter, I criticized the outdated tradition of my own ethnicity of hurting themselves during Muharram-ul Haram, a holy month for Shia Muslims.

The publisher of the magazine was surprised that I dared to write about such a sensitive topic that most people try to ignore. I was the only female reporter at the time, and he thought my story was important enough that he translated it to be published in Arabic papers.

We change the world by changing the world’s citizens’ ideas about each other. This does not happen by military attack or colonization. This happens when people talk and listen to one another.

According to my traditional society, the woman’s place is at home: getting married, raising babies, and serving her family. Too often a woman’s position is as a wife of a man who comes home angry and tired and then beats her.

Often a woman’s position is as a sister—a selfish brother yells at her for forgetting to wash his socks; or she is a neighbor of a man just searching for a small mistake to share it with the whole neighborhood; or she is a student of a professor who does not want to believe in her abilities.

Breaking those outdated traditions is difficult, but not impossible, and we Afghans need to take steps toward it.

I taught my brothers to do their work themselves and I taught my sisters to not allow anyone to interfere in their lives. I taught my family to believe in their daughters’ abilities as much as they trust in their sons’. I changed my father’s idea about girls. He allowed me to continue my education wherever I want.

Now my younger sisters will not be forced to marry a man who sees women only as feeble-minded, second-class citizens, or weak members of society. My relatives will not laugh at my parents for having a bunch of girls who are, in their perspective, nothing but “additional dependents.”

It is said, “A man only teaches himself, but a woman teaches the whole family.” As I work to make my dreams of becoming a successful journalist come true, I am choosing my way: education and action. But not just for myself. For my family, and for Afghanistan.

By Kamilah

Kamilah is currently a student in the United States. Photo by Steve McCurry.


  1. Salaam dear Kamilah,
    What an honor to read such words. I have no doubt that you will be very successful in helping your country. You are a very strong writer. Your words are not just strong, but presented in a way that people can hear them without feeling that they are being “shouted at”. I wish you all the very best.
    With respect, Jeannie

  2. Destin F. says:

    Thank you for the wonderful writing. I’m wise enough to know that Afghans are very different than is portrayed in the newspapers of my home country (Canada), and I love the opportunity to hear more about the cultures of many of the world’s civilizations.

    More importantly, though, I’m a strong believer in gender equality, and your story gives me a lot of hope that women can dream and accomplish whatever they want to.

  3. Fantastic work, Kamila. I couldn’t be prouder of you. You are showing again, and again, that each of us has the power to make changes, small and large, in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us. I am especially impressed by the leadership you’ve shown within your own family. Extremely inspiring.

    Also, these lines mean a lot to me: “I am majoring in journalism. It is much easier to influence educated people through writing than arguing or having long discussions.” Yes, yes, yes. I believe this very much, too. This is the hope. And you are doing it. Keep up the excellent work, sister writer! Stacy

  4. Robin McLean says:

    It is wonderful to read your work — it is so clear and full of conviction. You will make a fantastic journalist, activist and force for good.

    I am eager to read part two!


  5. Thank you very much from your thoughtful comments and encouragements. I am very happy for having such wonderful readers and supporters like you. @ Dear Robin, part two is published too.

  6. I am sure that your smart work will get you wherever you want to go, whatever you want to achieve, Kamilah. Keep going the way you’ve chosen; you’ll change the world. Thank you for sharing these thoughtful pieces.

  7. Dear Kamilah jan,
    Thank you so much from your wonderfull work , I really enjoy read this.
    Your such a great writer, you give to Afghan women new hope, looking forward to read more your nice stories.

  8. Kamilah, I am always happy to read your writing and hear your thoughts. You are helping bring about change as well as inspiring others to follow you.

  9. Dear Kamilah,
    The expression of your thoughts and emotions are extremely powerful! You write wonderfully! I felt deeply touched by your writing, everything that comes from yourself. You are an innate winner! So brave, so bright, so generous, so sensitive, so incredibly talented! I have no doubt you will reach all your goals and will make a revolution of your own. You empower our gender, you make us proud of being women. I hope you keep feeding your courage to speak out your brilliant mind and heart of gold. I am sure one day your Afghanistan will become a very prosperous and promising country, because women like you will run it with passion, purpose, patriotism, honesty, respect, and absolute braveness. You Afghan women must join together your strengths, talents, love for your people, families, country, pride of your culture. You can change Afghanistan. YOU are the possible change! You are winners!! Congratulations for your amazing nature!!! You are remarkable!!!! You have all my deepest admiration!

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