My culture says good girls should wear scarves and long dresses or long trousers. People think that if she doesn’t, she is a bad girl who does not listen to older people.

In my family, no one told me I must wear a scarf or long clothes. My mother is the most important person in my life and she does not care if I wear a scarf. I asked my friends what they would think of me if I didn’t wear a scarf. They said they would not care, they would still think of me as a good girl.

Some people in Afghanistan think that girls should not go to school because girls are only for working inside the home, not outside. In many places in Afghanistan, if a girl talks to man or boy who is not her relative, people think she is a bad girl. They say good girls should always be quiet.

My uncle does not think girls should study. My father’s side of the family thinks it is a sin for girls to go to school. But my family always told me to study hard and not listen to people who say girls should not go to school because it is my right to make my own life. When people tell me that going to school is not good for a girl, I am not quiet; I tell them I don’t care what they think of me.

Someday, I will tell my daughter to study hard, get an education, and make her own future so she can make changes in our country. I will tell the same thing to my son: study hard and never believe there is a difference between girls and boys.

Girls should never believe only what people tell them or think of them. They should be able to become anything they want in life, and wear anything they want to wear. Girls should always be free.

By Madia, age 13