Everyone liked Halima’s husband because he was a very kind and nice man. He was a soldier and a tank driver. He was inside of the tank when rockets attacked it and when he climbed out of the tank my father saw him. He was on fire. He ran to the river in his heavy military uniform to stop the flames, but it was summer and the river was dry. People tried to help, but it was too late and he died.

Halima was a beautiful young widow with two young children, a daughter and a son. Many men had eyes on Halima and wanted to marry her as a second wife, but they were scared to propose to her since according to the culture, her brothers-in-law had the priority to marry her. But Halima refused all of the marriage proposals. My mother told me how one of Halima’s brothers-in-law threatened to take away her two children if she did not marry him, but still she refused.

It was not easy for a beautiful young widow to stay single, but she survived. So other women wouldn’t gossip about her she stopped wearing colorful dresses and threading her face and eyebrows.

Halima improved her midwifery skills and soon she was helping every woman in my community to give birth. She never failed in her career. She worked in Herat’s 400 Bed Hospital and she also helped women give birth at home. Halima helped my mother give birth to nine children at home. When I came into this world I opened my eyes to her face and she later became my hero.

Halima helped hundreds of other women by going to villages and training them as midwives so they could help themselves financially. She stood up against her culture and proved that a woman can survive without a man. Halima took good care of her two children and educated them. She changed many people’s minds and ideas about women. All the men and women in my community respect Halima and appreciate her hard work and support for their women and children.

On this International Women’s Day, I think about Halima—my hero—and the millions of other heroes in Afghanistan and all around the world who are rising up and breaking the chains to make the world a better place for all of us.

By Marzia