Very early in life, instead of sending me to school, my family pushed me into demeaning work that no child, or even adult, should be subject to. My heart longed to go to school wearing a uniform and carrying a school bag. But that was not to be until my mother was sent to prison for her crimes. I was sent first to a women’s shelter home and then to a Children’s Support Centre (CSC) in Kabul that was run by Women for Afghan Women (WAW). At CSC, I enrolled in school and finally got to wear the school uniform I yearned for. In 2013, I was in 9th grade when my mother was released from prison, and wanted to take me back with her. I was terrified of a future with her, and knew that it would mean the end of my education. I refused to go with her. But she threatened to kidnap me on my way to school. I did not go to school for more than a month. Seeing my keenness to study, CSC helped me escape my family and flee to India to continue my education.
I came to India in 2014 with a full scholarship to complete my high school at a reputed school in Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu. I did not know a word of English but made the most of the special English classes at school. In my first year, I struggled to cope with the courses I took. I spent most of my time learning English. After two years, my English improved and I was comfortable participating in classes. I joined clubs such as Youth-rise at school and made the most of my opportunities.
During my vacations, I would return to Kabul to volunteer at CSC – helping younger children with their studies, and helping counsel women at WAW’s centres. Upon graduation from high school, I was able to get an admission with full scholarship at Ashoka University, one of India’s best liberal arts universities. The course work was intense, with a lot of heavy reading on politics and philosophy. But the teachers were great. Not only was I able to graduate with honors in 2021, I got an admission – again with full scholarship – at Asian College of Journalism, a premier institute of journalism based in Chennai.
I am where I am not merely because of my hard-work or the opportunities that presented themselves to me from time to time, but also due to the kindness of people in Afghanistan and India, and the support extended by my guardian families in India.
Now, this is the last mile of my formal educational journey. I have an admission to one of the world’s best institutes – the School of Oriental and African Studies in London – for political science. But what stands between me and the education that will set me free to pursue a meaningful career is money for tuition and expenses. This is a terrifying moment for me; the SOAS course is not merely the final step towards my career, but also the only thing that keeps me from being sent back to Kabul. In the years that I have spent in India, the situation in Afghanistan has gone from bad to worse. If I return, my efforts and education will be for nothing as women have no standing in today’s Afghan society.
I have worked hard, and many well-wishers have invested much time and money in helping me get where I am now. Afghanistan is a dangerous place for educated and thinking women. I want to change that. But for that, I need to be able to stand on my own feet. I write as a survivor, not as a victim. I intend to pursue my dream and help other girls pursue theirs. I cannot do this alone. I need your help to cover my travel costs and expenses in the UK.