Sahar is 20 years old. She is one of my friends who never gave up in the face of difficulty. She has given me the sense that I have something inside, that I can do what I want and that I have rights I am afraid to claim. Here is her story:
The thing that makes me saddest is seeing the difference between girls and boys. From childhood, my father always told me: “You are a girl. You have to work and have no need to study.” But I didn’t listen. I studied and hid that from my father and my mother. I can’t forget the day when I saw my father encourage my brother to study even though he didn’t have talent in this area. I felt my father and mother both loved their sons more than their daughters. When I observed these things, it really made me sad and at the same time, it made me strong, determined that one day I will prove women can work in the home and study at the same time.
My brother was smaller than me and everyone loved him a lot even when he didn’t do anything. I was the girl so I cooked for my family. In Taliban time, my father couldn’t find a job because he was Hazara (a Persian-speaking ethnic group commonly oppressed by the Taliban.) So I did carpet-weaving in the home. I kept studying at home too, waiting for a time when the Taliban would leave our country so I might find a chance to go to school. I never knew what childhood was and what mother and father love is. Especially in the Taliban time, women lived like slaves and I was a slave in my home.
After some time, the Taliban left our country and I found an opportunity to go to school. I was very happy and told my father. He agreed but said, “When I want you to stop, then you must.” I accepted because I wanted to start going to school. One day I was very happy because I got top student in my class, but when I showed my father, he wasn’t happy. He tore up my paper and said he didn’t believe it. I didn’t cry that time. I decided to be still stronger. I studied more, working night and day. My father began to try to stop my studying many times, but I argued with him that I needed to study and improve. Then my father decided to marry me to a friend of his. My father needed the money of the dowry. My mother couldn’t say anything or my father would beat her.
I said to my father, “If you will marry me because of money, I will earn that much money.” My father slapped me and said: “Don’t talk. Just be quiet. You don’t have choice in your future.”
But I got up and said, “Father, just give me one month. I will find the money.”
Then I began weaving carpets without break day and night, and my mother took them to the bazaar to sell them. During those days, my father constantly argued with my mother, saying: “We should not keep our daughter in our home. We have to force her to marry.”
In one month, I finished four carpets and gave the money I earned to my father. I said to him: “This is my money. Please never think that women are weak and you can just exchange them.” I am the one who has dared to talk with my father when my other sisters were afraid of him.
Now my friend Sahar is very proud of herself and I am too. She comes from a family in which, though her father was educated, her mother was not. She comes from a world which was full of discrimination from every side—both because she is a woman and because she is Hazara. Despite all this, she found her way.
What I learned from Sahar is that we women are all strong; we can face any kind of difficulty. Bad days make us stronger. We should claim our rights ourselves and not wait for someone to give them to us. We should take the pen and put a full stop to all violent behavior against women and write a new future new of hope and bring smiles to women’s faces and give them their value.
That is what we are working toward. This is not the end. We will make this group bigger and bigger until we stop women from having to beg on the street and stop men from beating their women.