Sanctuary Spotlight

Story two – Defying expections: a journey of barriers and resilience in Afghanistan

As a young woman from Afghanistan, I have experienced first-hand the inequality and injustice that exists in our society. Despite my desire to pursue an education, I have been denied this opportunity simply because of my gender. While my brothers were able to attend school and pursue their dreams, I was left behind, feeling frustrated and heartbroken.

Growing up, I watched as my older sisters were also deprived of an education, simply because my family and relatives believed that education was a tool reserved only for men. When I reached the ninth grade, I too was forced to drop out of school by my family, who believed it was the right time for me as a woman to focus on domestic duties. However, I refused to accept this fate. I told my family that life without knowledge and education meant nothing to me and I convinced them that a girl’s education is not limited to high school. So, they allowed me to return to school for Year 10.

Although I successfully crossed this barrier, the struggle did not end there, as the Taliban seized control of my country and imposed even greater restrictions on women. We were denied access to education, work and even basic human rights. While the situation was difficult and frustrating, I refused to give up on my dreams. I recognised that the Taliban may have closed the doors of traditional education, but they could not close the door of our goals and aspirations.

Using the power of technology, I was able to continue my education and communicate with people from all over the world. I learned web development, enhanced my English language skills and gained a new perspective on the world. While online resources were not accessible to everyone, I know that there are many other girls who have had similar experiences to mine.

Although I was unable to return to school to finish Year 11, and despite the limitations imposed upon me by society, I was given my graduation score of 98% with a 4.0 GPA (grade point average) in all 11 years of my classes, proving to myself and my family that I was capable of achieving my goals.

Something else that has given me meaning in life is learning more about the ways to protect our world. Being passionate about the natural environment, and also living in a polluted part of Kabul, I was motivated to discover more about these issues. I was inspired to launch a project to raise awareness about climate change, and to become a climate activist in my community. I have launched my own non-profit organisation called ‘GreenEarth March’, which aims to raise awareness and call other youth to take action on climate change. Through this I have educated many people locally about climate change by holding workshops and finding solutions in my community, such as recycling cotton to make bags instead of using plastic. The Taliban told me I should not be doing this, but I see how our country suffers from climate change with floods and droughts and the destruction of our crops.

Although everything around me has been a factor of disappointment, I keep up working for my future and the people around me. I believe that one day, we will be able to rise up and fight against the backward thinking that has held us back for too long. We will continue to pursue our dreams with determination and strength, and we will not be silenced by those who seek to oppress us. Together, we will break down the barriers that prevent women from achieving their full potential, and we will emerge victorious like the break of dawn.