I always wanted to be a professional athlete. Since I was little I have wanted to be a gymnast, a rock climber, a figure skater, a surfer, and a soccer player. I can’t do any of those in Afghanistan, but I still try.

I have always wanted to be a gymnast. I thought I could be the first female gymnast from Afghanistan until I learned from my teacher that we have no facilities to train for the Olympics in Afghanistan. But, I’ve told myself that I can do it if I practice enough so every morning, afternoon and evening, I try to practice hard. Out in my school garden I do handstands and a pose called “frog tuck.” I have hurt myself so many times that now sometimes when I do the more dangerous tricks one of my friends practices with me.

Most people tell me not even to try because girls can’t perform the same as male gymnasts. When Afghan women tell me that gymnastics isn’t good for you, I ignore them. I have always followed my own way. I heard that there are gymnastic courses in Barchi, but it is far away from the public school that I attend. But someday after I finish school, I know I will go to Barchi to study. Even my family supports me in this.

Rock climbing is another one those things I wish I could do but there is no real opportunity for me to try rock climbing. Sometimes I doubt myself, but I know I could do all of these things—rock climbing, figure skating, surfing, and soccer.

There are many other things I want to do, such as becoming a professor of biology and English, or working as a writer and poet. Someday, I will open schools in Kandahar and Kabul, and we will teach English, biology, and sports like gymnastics for girls!

By Shahira, age 13

Photo by Phil Borges.