Like other girls in Afghanistan, I couldn’t go to school during the six years of Taliban’s dark regime. My mother sent me to our neighbor’s house to learn sewing. I had to use her old sewing machine for a year. The second year when I learned how to sew and saved some money, my parents bought me a new one. I will never forget how wonderful, independent and strong I felt when I had my own sewing machine!
I took a good care of it and always made sure to clean it and oil it well. One day I designed a beautiful dress with a nice hat for one of our neighbor’s daughters. Soon after that, other neighbors came and asked me to make dresses for them too. The best part about this experience was meeting other women and learning about their lives. We were not allowed to work or meet outside, but we had our own social life inside our homes. We always found reasons to laugh and enjoy life. I stopped sewing when schools reopened in 2001.
There is no doubt that Afghan women are more than just victims. We are smart and strong and we have found ways to fight patriarchy under many different forms of oppression and various inhumane regimes. Although we don’t have many opportunities and options, we have always found ways to build sisterhood and stand on our own feet, even with few resources and little help.
During the Taliban regime, I was not even sure about going back to school, but today I am in graduate school. I was lucky because I lived in a big city and my family supported me. Unfortunately, there are millions of girls who do not have the opportunities and the supports that I have. Even today there are millions of girls in Afghanistan and around the world who are prohibited from seeking education, a basic human right. I often think about how much our societies are losing because we don’t fully harness the power and potential of these women. By preventing them from reaching their full potential, we are not just harming them, but also our communities.
I look forward to the day when I can use my education to educate and uplift other women and girls. I want to create spaces for girls and women to learn skills, have new tools like sewing machines and computers, and become independent. All women and girls deserve to live free from violence and discrimination. We must have the right to education and choose our own fate and destiny. When women and girls have a choice and are given the chance to become educated and independent, they will help themselves, their families, societies; and they will make our world a better and safer place for all.
Read this piece in Persian here.