refugee-children-in-pakistan

I remember I was 13, a schoolgirl, far from my hometown, far from Kabul, where there was only the sound of school bells, no shouts of school kids and no teacher.

I was living in a village, covered up with agriculture lands in Peshawar, Pakistan. I was there as a refugee during the Taliban years.

Schools were very far. There was no course, no institute, nothing. We were in the village. But every day early in the morning a woman with her five children walked fast and said, “Run my child run, walk in front of me so that I can see you, take your sister’s hand, be careful.”

I was the fourth child.  I had two sisters, one older brother and one younger brother.

My mom was the one who supported me in a strange country where there was no hope to study, no hope to live. But she brought a hope with her efforts.

She joined the school as nursery teacher for her five kids, to educate her kids, and slowly, slowly she became the most intelligent schoolteacher in history and geographic subjects.

She supported the Afghan girl students, in a school where there were no chairs, a room with no roof, a class with only a blackboard and chalk, all covered up with carpets.

She worked hard with the students and the other teachers in that school for refugees in the Pakawa area of Peshawar city.

At that time the word peace came to my mind. I wondered, “What is peace and how can a woman change society?”

This is what “self peace” is: while you do not have the support of anyone, you have the support of your own self, your own courage, and your own braveness.

I remember how she fought with people because of me.  She said, “Why are you looking at my daughter?” And she told me, “Stay away from them, don’t touch them!”

I still remember her words, “Baby don’t cry, time is always passing – remember one day a poor student from this poor school will one day change her life and others who need them. You don’t live for yourself, but also for those beside you, for those who need you and for those who are in need.”

I guess she was right. Now I am a women’s rights activist, a peace activist, and a civil society activist. I help those who are in need. I work as a defender of women’s rights and human rights and as a project officer in Afghan civil society.

I give awareness training to women in villages and districts to learn about their rights, their children’s rights, and human rights.  I have a website named “Independent Women,” where I post the success stories of women who have succeeded. 

My mom changed my life. One mom’s efforts can change a family. How many moms and women can change the country? Respect their rights! I salute my mom and all those mommies who inspire their children to study for a bright future. 

By Maryam M.

Refugee children in Pakistan, 2010. Photo by the Hashoo Foundation.