On the occasion of International Women’s Day, I’ve been thinking a lot about the women who inspire and empower me. The one woman who has always made me proud to be an Afghan woman is my mother, and this childhood memory illustrates exactly why.
I grew up in Herat, Afghanistan. Our winters are brutally cold, with days of non-stop snow. That winter was no exception. One night, I was sitting with my family and eating dinner in the only warm room in our house when someone knocked at our door.
My grandmother, a woman who had grown up in war and instability, used to say, “Never open your door to anyone during the night. It’s dangerous.”
She was often right. At the time, my mother was working at a non-governmental organization for women, as a nurse. In rural Afghanistan, women usually don’t go to male doctors or nurses; they were glad that they could see her instead. But some men could not accept that an Afghan woman was working with a foreign organization. Others could not accept women leaving their houses at all. A few times, a neighbor had come to our door and told us that he had seen some unfamiliar people climbing the wall surrounding our home, or standing in front of our door. It was scary.
When she heard the knock on the door that night, my mom said, “Maybe it’s a patient, coming for an injection.”
I was shaking with fear. A million thoughts crossed my mind, but my mom stopped eating dinner and got up.
“Mom! Do not go! Please” I said.
“They come to my door for help. I cannot send them back,” She replied. I couldn’t stop her. Honestly, nobody could stop her from helping another woman.
My dad said, “At least, let me go. It is so cold outside. It is zero degrees.”
“I’ll wear my warm coat,” my mom responded. “Don’t worry.”
She got her coat and ran to open the door at last. It was our neighbors. One of them was sick and needed my mom to do her injection. I was glad that all my fears were wrong. After my mom finished, they thanked her and left.
As we continued our meal, I knew I would never forget that night. My fear was replaced with pride for the way that my mom faced the possibility of danger, in order to help another woman.
Editor’s Note: This story was written as part of a collaboration between Free Women Writers and StoryCenter’s Silence Speaks initiative, involving a three-part online storytelling workshop. For more information about Free Women Writers, contact Noorjahan Akbar. For more information about Silence Speaks, contact Amy Hill.