Afghanistan has known war for almost four decades. Yes, decades—forty years—14,600 days. War has brought a lot of damage to our country, especially in terms of gender inequality, which has become a part of every Afghan woman’s life. Many women who suffered through all these years have now passed away, or are unable to express their thoughts about their experiences. Others tend to almost believe they are nothing but a piece of meat. I think it’s time to break through the gender stereotypes in Afghanistan.

Traditional thought among Afghan men has been that women are made only for the home and the family provider should be a man. But women should also be able do something to support their home and children. They should have the right to work in an office or at the very least, get an education. An estimated eighty percent of Afghan women are illiterate. This shows how much they have been underprivileged by our society, even denied the right to read and write.

I grew up in Almaty, Kazakhstan. I studied there through the ninth grade, and moved in 2009 to Kabul where I was shocked to see so many women suffering. Many women wear blue burqas and wait in the cold weather after getting ten Afghanis to buy bread for their children. This made my heart sink, and I asked myself, “Why should they suffer?’’

I believe that Afghan people create the stereotypes against women. But by educating both men and women, we can change the lives of people forever, especially those women who have suffered for decades because of stereotypes preventing them to live as human beings. If the Afghan government would take a closer look at the lives of women, they would want to help them. Unfortunately, the government has been blind for decades. Social awareness is another way to fight against stereotypes of women, especially in rural areas of Afghanistan where they are subjected to so much violence. We could live and breathe in peace without fears of being harassed or addressed as a slave to men who think they have the authority over women.

If more Afghan women were allowed by their husbands to go to school, they would not suffer or be punished in this cruel way. The media here should be enthusiastically assisting our country to make this place better to live for Afghan women. The world wants to know the reality of women’s lives in different places. In Afghanistan, a woman is not aware of her basic rights, and is thus threatened like an animal. Cases like Farkhunda’s, where a girl was burned to death, or Reza Gul, whose nose was cut off by her husband, reveal the dark side of our country.

Since moving to Kabul, I have decided to make a difference in Afghan women’s lives. I joined the Afghan Women’s Writing Project to express the ache of the discrimination and conditions of Afghan women.

I love the quote by the famous Maya Angelou, who once said, “I am a feminist. I’ve been female for a long time now. I’d be stupid not to be on my own side.’’ She is absolutely right.

I am feminist because I want to protect women’s rights, especially those living in rural areas of Afghanistan who are not aware of their basic rights. We should change the world. We should change Afghan people’s minds who think women are only made for the kitchen and raising children.

Educating both the men and women of Afghanistan through conducting workshops and seminars, and promoting women’s rights through TV and advertising, would finally make people more aware. We, the women of Afghanistan, are too fed up and tired to tolerate this treatment anymore. We want a change! Right here, right now!

By Sveto