I agree with the saying that change begins in the home. I believe that if we want to change a community we must start with ourselves and apply what we learn to society. I am proud of my Afghan culture and tradition, but thirty years of war has had a bad impact on my people and my culture. Our culture was lost during the war to extreme religious ideas, leaving Afghanistan with some rules and laws limiting women’s rights, and they need to be changed.

Of course our low level of literacy also plays a big part in our not knowing the real culture of our country.  But today we live every day with blood and crying.  I am away from my country now, but I cry while reading the news. When will it end? We need change. We can tell our sad stories and show the world that we have been victims of war. But change depends on us.

If we want to get out of this situation, Afghans have to come together, learn from the past, and say “No” to violence. Women are being tortured and killed. We must break our silence, speak up, and help each other. It is not an overnight job. If we want to bring about changes in society, first we have to change ourselves. Women in Afghanistan have to stand up and help themselves.

As a young Afghan woman, I learned that if you don’t push for your rights no one will give them to you. I had to speak up for myself in order to get an education. When I finished high school, I was told that I couldn’t continue my education. I had to overcome my shyness, speak up, and tell my brothers they must let me go abroad to study. My mother had always encouraged me. She supported education more than anything, and I want to follow in her footsteps. I convinced them that they should not listen to what people say about how a girl cannot go by herself to another country to study. It wasn’t easy for me to go abroad alone. I never thought I could come so far because I grew up in a strict culture. But I broke through some of the cultural norms, and now my brothers know that letting a girl study is not bad and that educating a girl is educating a family.  

I believe each of us has the power to change, but first we have to recognize what is holding us back. I am no longer a shy, quiet woman.  I don’t expect to be a hero and bring change to all in my country. But I am determined to bring change and I would be happy to bring positive changes to even a few lives.

We Afghan women should stop complaining about our weaknesses and focus on what we can do and how we can stop violence against women and children. These issues involve men as well. A bird flies in the sky with both wings, not with one wing. Can men and women come together to stop this violence? The way we grew up was not to ask why. We were supposed to follow orders. Now it is time for change.

Educate yourself. Break away from false parts of the culture and tradition.  Study both sides of the issue and be united. Stop discrimination among the ethnic groups.   Education is key because it allows our minds to question injustice.

My mother used to say, “If we take one stick, it is very easy to break; if we bundle more than one, it is impossible to break.”

I know we are tired of war and dead bodies everywhere. If we all come together—women and men who do not want to see injustice and want to bring change—we can hold hands and build a safe society and a safe place to live that respects all human life.

By Shogofa

The author is a student abroad.