Today’s diary entries come from Halima and Khan Bibi, two teenage girls who live in different parts of Afghanistan.
Girls’ access to education in Afghanistan has been limited for decades. During the Taliban’s rule in the country in the late 1990s, girls were not allowed to attend school. Now, 17 years after the end of the Taliban’s rule, more than half of all girls in Afghanistan remain out of school. In fact, the country is ranked as one of the worst in the world for girls’ access to education.
Cultural gender norms, child marriage, poverty and a lack of schools are some of the reasons that contribute to lack of access to girls’ education in the country.
Halima is a teenage girl who lives in Mazar-i-Sharif, a city in northern Afghanistan. Her family used to live in another province in Afghanistan, and Halima, who is in the 10th grade, writes that she would not have been able to stay in school if her family hadn’t moved.
“If we stayed in Daikundi, I could not continue my education. In Daikundi, usually families marry off their daughters at a very young age and do not let them go to school. I am very thankful for being in Mazar-i-Sharif. This way I can continue my education, in addition to going to different educational courses as well as religious centers,” Halima writes.
“I really want to achieve something big, thus I really should try, and I already have started my attempts. And this will be possible because I do not fear anything, except God. I will achieve my dreams, Inshallah!”
Every morning, I wake up at 4 a.m. I pray, read some Koran, and then do my homework. After this, I do some chores around the house. I usually finish at 7 a.m. and go to school. I spend four hours in school and come back home and then do my homework.
Then, I clean the rooms, wash the dishes from lunch and then go to Koran school. I would really like to become a teacher; I might become a Koran teacher but not sure. In addition to studying in a course, I also teach there. I really hope to become a good teacher and have polite students.
In addition to the above work, I also peel potatoes, because my dad sells fries. We usually help him out at home. During the day, I usually study hard and get ready for Kankoor [an Afghan national exam to enter university].
Then I pray and read some Koran again. My family and I have dinner together. Then I go to my room and study more. I work on my essays. I really want them to be good. In the future, I hope to study in other countries and apply for scholarships to make that happen.
I started my day with excitement because I participated in a religious competition. I have participated in many competitions but have not won or gotten any sort of prizes. Every time a male wins the competition and not a female. However, I never gave up. That is why I participate again and again in these competitions. I repeat to myself, “If men can win, we can too.” Finally, last week I won the second prize in a competition that I participated in at school. That is why my day went great!
Khan Bibi is a 13- or 14-year-old (she doesn’t know her exact age) who lives in the Obe district in Herat, Afghanistan. She’s in the eighth grade and lives with her parents, three brothers and two sisters in a house they share with three other families.
Khan Bibi has many friends, including girls in her drama class, girls on her robotics team and her neighbors. Her best friend is a girl named Fariba. “I tell all my problems to Fariba and she tells me. She is my best friend,” Khan Bibi writes.
“People should know that I am a talented girl and how much I do my best to be successful in school. People think that because we are poor, we are not talented. But where there is a wish, there is a way. I always study to prove my abilities,” she writes.
I got up at 4:30 in the morning. First, I performed my prayer. Then, I recited some verses of the Holy Koran. I went to school at 7:30 a.m.
It was a very good day for me. I did very well on my exam.
After I returned home from school, I had my lunch. I took a shower. Then, my mother and I started cleaning watermelon seeds. After that, I studied my lessons because we had a physics exam the following day. I intended to get a good score in the test, so I needed to study hard. I would like to get the first position in my class again. My mother went to the market and I did the chores at home.
Last night, I looked forward to waking up in the morning and going to school to take my test. I was also expecting my father to earn money and buy a pair of shoes for me. However, my father did not earn enough today and his selling cart broke. Still, he promised to buy shoes for me.
I was worried about my test. Besides, I worry about my father because he has a mental illness. I am worried if he gets any anxiety attacks. He has been an encouraging person to continue my studies. We have a bad economic situation. We have had to borrow money from others because of my father’s illness. I am afraid to lose my father.
Every day, every night, I have these thoughts. I am worried when my father goes to work because he is ill.
I was so happy because I went to bazaar with my mother. Then, we went to her employer’s house. The employer’s wife gifted me a nice blouse. Also, I did well in my test. All my teachers were happy about my test result. They encouraged me a lot.
I took a shower. In fact, I go to the bath every other day. Then, I helped my brother in his spelling test. I helped him in his lessons, too. I helped my mother in laundry. I washed the dishes. I studied my lessons. I played with other girls in the neighborhood. Then, we cleaned watermelon seeds and gave them to the owner. I took the payment and bought a shawl with it.
I expected my father to work and buy a pair of shoes for me. Unfortunately, he had not worked and I could not buy them. I also expected to finish cleaning watermelon seeds and take some more to clean.
Today, I am in a good mood. Everything I expected happened except buying shoes. However, I bought a shawl. Also, my father was very well.
I went to bed at 1:30 a.m. I was so happy until 10 p.m. But, I got unhappy after that. I thought about my problems in my life. My father is ill. My mother works in other people’s houses. I also am cleaning watermelon seeds every day.
I always think about what a comfortable life some people have. When I think about my own life, I become unhappy. We have a simple life with economic problems, but we are still happy. We have some debts after my father encountered a mental attack. We took him to the hospital, but we could not afford to pay the expenses of his treatment. We borrowed some money and we are in debt now. When I think about such problems, I cannot sleep.
Pencils and bullets: Girls’ education in Afghanistan (Al Jazeera)
She married three brothers in a family torn by war (The New York Times)
From Afghanistan, with love (Medium)