In my society in Afghanistan, women are considered inferior to men. Women struggle for their rights, and in most areas they are still considered almost like slaves. In some districts a woman has no right to an education or even to put her foot outside the door of her house.

In my society, families get upset when a girl is born. I have heard people say that when their daughter was born, “I wish a had a son.” I have seen families hold a party when a son is born but very few hold a party when a girl is born. I have seen a family give their daughter away at birth because they did not want a girl. I have asked people why they don’t like their daughters, but I don’t get a good answer.

Women are held responsible for every wrong in Afghanistan. If a family finds out about a forbidden relationship between a girl and a boy, they kill the girl and the boy goes free. If love is a sin, doesn’t it have to be a sin for both people? If it doesn’t matter for the boy, why should the girl pay for it?

In some places, women are not permitted to eat until their husband eats. If the husband doesn’t want to eat, they can’t eat either. This happens more in rural areas where people are uneducated and women are like a machine to be bought or sold. When a woman shares her ideas about something, men don’t listen. They say, “Now, we will have to listen to a woman.”

I can share my ideas openly with my family, but at university or at work it is different. My friends and I are not listened to. We are made to accept the men’s ideas, just because they are men. Some men think listening to a woman or asking a woman for her opinion is an embarrassment or even an insult to them. They think that if they took the advice of a woman, they would lose respect.

Sometimes I think this inequality will go on forever. Will a time come when we will be treated as equals? My family is supportive of my education, but I know many girls who aren’t as lucky. I consider myself fortunate, but there are still things my family won’t allow. I will never be permitted to study abroad or even to live in another city without my family.

I think both men and women should have authority over their lives. I don’t want anyone to force someone to do something they didn’t want, like forced marriages. We should change the culture of girls being forced to marriage before age eighteen. I don’t want any more teenage girls to be beaten by their husbands.

If girls were not forced to marry so young, the rate of death during childbirth would be lower. The lives of many young girls would be saved. If girls weren’t forced to marry men twenty years older, the rate of suicide would decrease. If every woman were happy and free to do what she wished, we would have a more developed and peaceful society.

By Haya, age 18

This piece is also published on Women’s eNews. Photo by David Elmore.