I was born into a community where you are recognized as guilty if you are born a girl. But if my sin is being a girl, it was a good sin, because today I am getting an education despite all the people who stood in my way.

I was born in Midan Wardak province and I grew up in a male-dominant society. I was deprived of a general education, even though I had dreams just as big as the boys had in my village. The only education a girl like me could have was Islamic studies. So I went ahead with Islamic studies, but not the way men wanted. I did not just go to a mosque for Islamic studies, but I got help from my male friends and studied their elementary school books on my own.

My family then decided to take action and they enrolled me in a boys’ school, ignoring the disgusting laws. It surprised many people when I started going to school. I walked and went to school with the boys in my class. People teased my father about it and they bothered us. But my father and the whole family stood up for my education and we moved to Kabul.

I am blessed with a great family who supports equal education for girls and boys. In Kabul, where I now attend university, life is different. When I am in my room, I don’t think about how I am a girl, the second sex. But when I get outside on the street, the teenage boys and men are all there to stare and remind me that I am a girl not valued for myself but as the object of men’s pleasure.

Men make the streets unsafe for girls with their staring, their catcalls, their touching, and their harassing words. But I think our gender is what we make of it in society and how we define it.

Most of us are discriminated against, but we don’t often assert our power. Sometimes we allow ourselves to be discriminated against. I believe the streets are mine, too.

By Raha