Finding joy and fun for girls in Afghanistan is not an easy job because they are deprived of these opportunities.

A few weeks ago my friends and I wanted to ride bicycles with the United Nations’ Girl Up campaign. We thought it would be a fun activity, riding our bikes every Friday. Our hope was that people would no longer disturb girls while they were biking and make biking part of everyday life.

Our plan was to ride around different places to show people girls can ride a bike as well as boys. But I had to have my parents’ permission and this was not easy—because it wasn’t the first time I asked them, but the fifth time.

It was Thursday noon on the day before we were to ride and I was so scared that they would not let me do it. I went to the mirror and told myself that this time they will let me ride my bike.

I went to my mother and started by saying, “Dear Mom, you know that I am a member of Girl Up and they have a project to ride bikes around some places and …”

“I have told you many times that you are not allowed to ride a bike and that is all,” my mother said. She sounded angry and she didn’t let me finish, but I tried again.

“But you said if there were any other girls with me you will allow me to go biking,” I said.

She replied, “You will not shame us by sitting on a bike and riding on the streets. And more importantly, what if some of our relatives see you? How am I supposed to look them in the eyes?”

For some minutes I was stuck, thinking about this. I wondered why I should feel shame riding my bike? Is it some kind of crime or something really rude that makes my family shamed in their relatives’ eyes?

Maybe my family was not wrong, but they were just guilty of supporting wrong traditions that people falsely believe are Islamic rules? But I know these are not Allah’s rules.

Today I was supposed to write my happy memory about riding my bike. But now I feel that I was deprived of that opportunity, and I write my saddest memory. I was denied this joy because of a tradition that goes totally against women’s rights.

I hope for the day when my sisters and I can bike without fear of this old tradition. I hope that we will all ride our bikes and open the eyes closed by old traditions, and show them a bicycle is not only for boys, but for everyone.

By Arifa, age 14