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.
The author is a student abroad.
This took my breath away! You are brave and eloquent. Every word rings true. I especially love your conclusion, with the metaphor of the sticks. It is brilliant. As the host mother to an Afghan woman studying in America, I have seen the strength of Afghan women, as well as the daily challenges of standing up for themselves, at home and abroad. One woman at a time, change is happening!
Brilliant, wise, eloquent. And so true. As the host to an Afghan student at college in America, I witness her daily struggles, and how she has to stand up for herself both at home and abroad. One woman at a time, change is happening!
Just a fantastic essay, Shogofa. I am with Liz – breathless. Well done and well said. I am especially taken with:
“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.”
I find all of this to be very true. You will have to step out on your own. But if you have one person who supports you with strength and love, you will be OK. Kisses and hugs to your mother. A round of applause for you! Stacy
Shogofa, this is a terrific essay. You make excellent points: women must change themselves, their families, and their societies, and come together with other women and with men to do so. I love the quote from your mother about the bundle of sticks. Women like you and your mother will bring about change.
Shogofa inspires me. Just when I think she is feeling sad, exhausted or without hope, she accomplishes something amazing. I’m learning, ever so slowly, not to underestimate her. When she writes, as in this piece, that she is determined to bring change to her native country, I will no longer be inclined to doubt her resolve or bet against her success. Shogofa’s shyness has truly been replaced, slowly but surely, by strength. She may never be loud, arrogant, demonstrative, command fanfare, or overwhelm anyone with her presence. Her will, however, seems indomitable and her spirit unshakable!