Childhood is a time for dreams and dreaming big. When I was younger, I had no worries. Everything was easy; I thought everyone was honest. I had a dream to be a boxer—to have lots of power and to punch and to gain fame and pride for my country and family.
In those days I was a fan of Muhammad Ali—the world champion boxer. When I watched his matches on our 20-inch television, I enjoyed it when one person hit the other and the audience clapped for a winner.
As I get older, time has shown me that there is a big gap between childhood vision and real life. Now I know that to be a boxer you should be tall. Otherwise when you get punched you will end up with a broken face. I am not tall and I am not made for boxing. But in childhood dreams we don’t have to consider all the obstacles, all the potentials and side effects.
When I was thirteen, I woke up from my childhood and stepped into the real world of challenges. In Afghanistan the most important consideration is our culture. In our society a girl is not going to be considered a “good girl” if she crosses cultural barriers. In a typical Afghan family, it is much more important to uphold the family reputation than for dreams to be fulfilled.
Our reality today is that girls may dream of their future, but in most of Afghanistan the phrase “girls and school” is a joke treated with contempt.
More than sixty percent of our population lives in villages. For decades and decades the people have been involved with agriculture and the livestock business. For most of these villages education is a culture that includes boys, not girls.
The thirty years of war made it more difficult for families to adapt to the idea that education is also good for females. In the last ten years since the withdrawal of Taliban new hopes were raised for the people. Many schools were built in different regions and millions of children have enrolled in school. Despite the cultural barrier and the security issue, many families have become more optimistic about the future for their children if they get educated.
At the same time, other people began to see that if the trend continues this way for many years, then eventually all the girls will get educated and will be aware of their own rights, their demands will get bigger and bigger, and the imbalance of power—now completely in the hands of men—will be lost.
So these people are starting again to burn our schools and poison the air or water in the schools so that the families will withdraw their girls from school out of fear. This happened in September in many districts in Herat, Takhar, Kunduz and elsewhere. And the trick works. Families stop their girls from going to school.
Our security is getting worse each day in many provinces. The people themselves cannot ensure their own safety for their families, so the only thing they can do is keep their kids safe at home. As a result, we return to the days when girls can only dream their big dreams.
Photo: Eric Kanalstein / UNAMA
A profound essay, dear Fahima. You hit the nail on the head: “the trick works”. Yes, you are describing clearly the ways that people with absolute power will do whatever they can to keep it. That yes, educated girls and women will want to be able to know some autonomy and genuine partnership in this life. Something that is beautiful and fair! An unfair system cannot stand–not forever. Power to the girls and women who only want fairness in the families and communities. May they know that sweet feeling. Stacy
Fahima — This is owerful writing about a difficult truth – that once again girls and their families are being intimidated into staying at home, rather than risking going to school. Shining a light on what is happening is important so that we are not under the illusion that you have security there. As terrible as this situation is the one thing these bullies cannot stop is the dreaming. I hope that one day these women/girls will have the opportunity to realize those dreams and have the rights they deserve. With all hope for a peaceful and just future, Nancy
After I read your story, I feel so dispirited about knowing how does the women get the unfair treatment under the tyrannical and inhumanity government. The women didn’t have the chance to learn and follow their dream; they only can have their dream in mind. And you saying once the women are getting go to school and you have also been o school. This making you know how was the feeling of getting educated. So this makes you understand how important was going to school. But this terrible circumstance never stops, I hope someday you can have the chance to make your dream come true.
Your detailed essay provides an insight into the life of a girl in Afghan. It is sad to see that young children are also victims of the sexual discrimination even regarding education and school. I believe that the lack of education, especially for women, is one of the main causes of the growing patriarchy. School will help girls gain confidence and defend themselves. Many men fear losing control and do not want to educate their wives but women should be given equal rights. Gradually, more people are supporting women’s rights and feminism. Many activist groups are forming to help young women have the same treatment. This organization is one of many that are helping women express their feelings and I am glad that girls are able to write stories and essays on this website. You highlight the reality of the situation by saying “‘girls and school’ is a joke treated with contempt.” It is really surprised that women are still not allowed to automatically attend school. With awareness for equal rights slowly growing, girls in Afghan will eventually be allowed to learn. The young children should continue to dream of attending school and hopefully one day it will become true. Reading this story, made me realize the importance of education overall.
Your story reflects the harsh truth of life in Afghan as young girls. It is difficult to see how young women in Afghan have to face sexual inequality. Especially the part where you talked about how women never got an opportunity to follow their dreams when they have one because everyone has the right to work hard towards their dreams but some girls in your community are effortless in reaching goals. But keep in mind that if you are determined to gain an education, you might have the chance to go to school. More and more people are turning their attention to gender equality so always have hope. Thank you for sharing the reality of your community. By writing this essay, you became one of the people who help fight for gender equality because this gets more people like me to realize the serious problem of sexual discriminaton and it reminds me of how there are still girls who do not have the opportunity to go to school. I hope you can continue to write and share your stories! Good luck on your path to accomplish your dream!