Freedom means to me that I can go everywhere and do everything. I can wear what I want to wear, I can see what I want to see, I can watch what I want to watch and I can play football and volleyball. I think I have more freedom than other Afghan girls, because my family doesn’t keep me in a cage. I am uncaged.

They let me study, play and wear what I want. Sometimes this freedom makes life harder for me. My cousins, uncles and aunts don’t like me studying or playing with boys. I can see how it makes them angry by the way they act and things they say to me. I tell them, “I need to be free. My mother and father support me so this shouldn’t disturb you.”

Because I am free, I can learn to speak several languages. I speak Dari at school, Pashtu at home, Urdu with my uncle, Arabic at school to learn the Holy Koran, and I am learning to speak English at my private school. Because I am free, I can communicate with people around the world. I have a Gmail account and I Skype with friends in Vermont, New York, Boston, Pennsylvania, Utah, Nashville and Sweden. I know how to research topics on the Internet. Because I am free, I decided not to fast for a few days during Ramadan because I was ill. When I felt better, I fasted.

I am free to choose my future, but there are people who say I shouldn’t, shouldn’t, shouldn’t. They say I shouldn’t state my needs. They say I shouldn’t raise my voice and say how much freedom I have because people who don’t approve of my becoming educated might kidnap me. Some people say my father shouldn’t let me go to school or go outside the house. They say I shouldn’t seek an education because someone might throw acid in my face.

Sometimes I am still afraid to demand my freedom, but not so much anymore. If I work my whole life to get freedom, I know one day I will have it. I want to be happy and live happily. If I work hard then one day I will get to my goal. Being scared to work for freedom because some people disapprove would mean that nothing would come to our hands. My family supports me so I don’t need to be afraid. My family is happy to be free.

By Shahida, age 14

This essay has been selected to be featured on the United Nation’s IDG Summit site in honor of International Day of the Girl 2014.