As a girl in Afghanistan I get a lot of advice from different kinds of people about how to behave. Everyone has different opinions because they grew up in different families. When I was in school, my teachers told me to study hard, wear your uniform, be clean, respect your family and teachers. This advice was very good and I follow it always. But I live in a part of Kabul where people have different ideas about how to be a good girl.
One day while I was going to my English class I met a neighbor woman who was out getting some water. She asked me where I was going. “I’m going to my English Center,” I said.
“What is English?” she asked.
“It’s a language like Dari,” I said.
“You want to learn English?”
“Yes. If we can talk in more languages, we might solve more of our problems. English is an international language so I want to learn it. Also I love the English language.
“Who teaches you this English?” my neighbor asked.
“A boy,” I answered. “He is very intelligent and teaches us well.”
I have answered these questions many times from my neighbors. I always tell them that I love studying. It is my passion to learn new things. Studying is very important, I tell them. You will know your rights. You can solve your problems by yourself and also help other people. You can bring peace to your country. You can do all this, but you need to be an educated person.
My neighbor was surprised that day and she started to give advice.
“You want to learn a language, you are going outside, and a boy is teaching you? That is very bad for a girl! First, you should leave your English Center and don’t go outside. If it’s really so important to go, you should wear a big scarf that covers all your body. You should help your mother, work at home, listen to your family, especially your father and brother, because they are the men in your family. How old are you?”
“I am sixteen.”
“You should be married,” she said, “that is important. But you are going outside and studying. That is enough studying for you.” And then she left.
Her advice surprised me. Her ideas were so different from mine and from my family. My parents also give me advice about how to be a good girl. They tell me to respect my family, teachers, and all adults, to help people, study hard, and be strong and patient. They also tell me not to be close friends with boys, not to go out after 5 pm, to wear my scarf when I do go outside and to pray five times a day. Above all, they tell me to be honest and kind, and not to escape from problems but confront them. Don’t run away but try to solve them and learn from the experience. My parents believe that if you follow this advice, you will be successful in your life. My teachers’ advice is the same. Don’t do anything taboo in Islam.
If I have children, I will pass on their advice. But I don’t like it when my neighbors tell me I should stop learning. I don’t want to listen to this advice. Education is like sunshine in life, it lets us see a better way to live.