Editor’s note: At Pax Populi, our educational programs are for all Afghans, but we give particular attention to the needs of girls and women since opportunities for them have been especially limited. In that spirit in September 2010, we arranged to bring a young Afghan woman named Shogofa to study at Salem State University, in Massachusetts, USA, where she studied for three semesters. In response to a family emergency, she returned home in December 2011, and due to our organization’s limited finances we didn’t expect to be able to arrange for her return. However, with the help of many, we are delighted to report that Shogofa was able to return to the United States to resume her studies under the sponsorship of Pax Populi.
Today, because a brave girl named Malala was recently shot by violent extremists for publicly expressing her desire for education, the world has become much more aware of the dangers women and girls face in certain parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan when they seek to advance their education. It is a tragedy to see these young women live in fear and denied the opportunity to develop their abilities. It is a loss for themselves, for their country, and the world. Who benefits from illiteracy and ignorance? No one. To the contrary, we are all harmed when anyone is kept in darkness through a lack of education.
Continuing our “Voices from the New Afghanistan” series, we are delighted to post an essay from Shogofa in which she talks about the importance of education in her life and how she hopes to put her education to use in her homeland. If we can manage, it is our goal to support Shogofa until she finishes her bachelor’s degree. We will need the support of many to make this possible. If you would like to make a contribution, we would greatly appreciate it. Please visit our “Donate” page for more information.
Thank you and peace!
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After I finished my second semester at Salem State University in Massachusetts, USA, I went back to Afghanistan because my father was seriously sick with cancer. It was another challenge for me to face. I stayed with my father until after he passed away. It was very hard to deal with this reality. When I was 19 years old, I moved away from my family and soon thereafter, lost my mother. My parents had been like the two wings I needed to fly. I lost them both, and with them, much of my hope. And yet, despite these experiences I couldn’t give up because my mother always used to say, “Your experience will be the best education in your life. You will learn from your past and your experiences.” Her encouragement still leads me to get up and follow my dream and goal.
What is that? My current goal is to complete my university education, to learn, and to teach. I have seen so many difficulties blocking my way to get an education and I have fought them all. I do so because education is not only important for me, but for my people and my country. I have learned that hard days make us stronger.
When I was back in Afghanistan for nine months, I wanted to start the work for women’s rights. I wanted to help all my people in Afghanistan, but especially the women and children who are living and working on the street because it made me really sad to see young girls begging and to see the number of women begging increase day by day. Since I have come to know myself as a woman I have frequently been hearing about the problem of women’s rights in Afghanistan. We see this topic at the top of many lists in web searches, in every corner of our newspapers, and in many books that have been written about Afghanistan. It makes me wonder how long people will read sad stories about Afghan women and feel sorry for them. As an Afghan woman I want to bring an end to these sad stories. In their place I want to help bring peace to Afghanistan, and where there are now tears, I want to see smiles on the face of my people. I have come to see this as part of who I am.
Now I have returned to my university studies in America. I am here today not only because I have been through hard days and had the support of my family, but because I need to learn more so that one day I can help my people. I know that education is the key to peace and every success. Today some might say that education is the enemy of women because when we ask for education there are people who try to kill us. Nowadays, around the world, people know of Malala, a 14 year old girl who was shot in the head by extremists because she understood the value of education and stood up for the rights of women and girls to an education. She did so knowing she was putting her life at risk. Like her, every woman has to be prepared to put their life at risk to bring peace.
I am not afraid of dying or getting shot, but I am afraid of not fulfilling my dream of completing my university education. And for my people, I am afraid that many years will pass before we see peace in our country and happiness return to the faces of the people of Afghanistan. And because of this, I know I have to finish my studies. I can’t leave this job unfinished.