When I was seven years old in Kandahar, I loved to pretend I was the teacher and I’d teach math to all of the children. But by the time I was eight, I hated the teachers at school because they hit us with a ruler and were very mean so I didn’t want to be a teacher.

Then one day I watched the police rescuing some small children at my school who were about to be hit by a car. From that day forward, I wanted to become a policewoman so I could save people’s lives. I especially wanted the uniform. But then one day in the newspaper, I saw how a lot of people were dying and that the Taliban were killing policemen. If they were killing policemen, what would they do to a policewoman? I told myself that I will never become a policewoman.

I was young then and I didn’t realize that everything we want to achieve in Afghanistan is going to be difficult. Now I have decided to become an oncologist, a cancer doctor.

When I was ten years old, my grandmother passed away from cancer. I know that many people die of cancer, especially the poor people. They can’t afford to go to another country for treatment and they die very young. That day during the sunny morning with my grandmother, I stood on my bed and shouted my decision and then I went into the other room and told my parents that I wanted to be an oncologist and treat as many people as I can.

They appreciated hearing this, although one of my cousins made fun of me. “You can’t do anything because you are really weak. You’re a girl,” he said. But I said that with education we can do positive things, and bring change to everyone’s lives.

Although everyone can go to a doctor, many people believe that women should not see a male doctor. Since Afghanistan doesn’t have many female doctors, many women don’t get treatment.

I plan to study medicine in Afghanistan and do research abroad so that I can learn how to better treat cancer patients in my country. Afghanistan needs more cancer doctors. Cancer of the blood affects many Afghan women and children in particular.

I would also like to become a lawyer. In Kandahar, many girls are not able to go to school and be educated. They are treated very badly because of the culture and their parents’ beliefs. If I am both a doctor and a lawyer, I can better protect the treatment of women. As a lawyer, I can defend humanitarian rights, and as a doctor, I can help people to be happy and healthy with better treatment.

I know that I’ll face a lot of problems before I become a doctor and a lawyer. It is very hard for a girl in Afghanistan. People will make fun of me or not listen or they might even want to kill me. But I will not lose my courage. People need to open their minds to change.

By Shahida, age 14