Zahra is benefitting from a scholarship funded by the Linda Norgrove Foundation at Gawharshad Institute of Higher Learning in Kabul. Here, she describes what the opportunity to study means to her.
I want to share with you a little bit of my life story. I live in a patriarchal society where violence against women is increasing. We, the women and girls of this land, are the victims of this violence. Despite this difficult situation, I try to breathe and get ahead with my life.
In my country the role and place of women is still not evident, but I live with a hope that we will find our real place in society and my future will be better than my mother’s. Though I face a long list of problems considering my young age, I want to live a normal life and enjoy all the things that are available to other young women.
I’m a resident of Waras district of Bamyan province, one of the poorest provinces of Afghanistan.
Disguised as a boy
Because no girl was allowed to go to school in our district, I went to school while wearing boys’ clothing and using a boy’s name. After some years, girls were finally allowed to go to school. I graduated from high school in 2010. Since it is beyond the Afghan government’s capacity to provide higher education to everyone, I decided to attend a private university. I heard that Gawharshad Univerity is a good institution for young women and girls – to achieve my goal, I travelled all the way from Waras to Kabul and applied to Gawharshad.
I was concerned about the expenses and was under lots of emotional and psychological stress, wondering how I could possibly meet those expenses and tuition fees.
At first, I was a bit depressed and was almost at the point of quitting university and going back home. The fear of not being able to pay my tuition fees and other costs was really upsetting me. Also, I was away from home for the first time, and living alone seemed difficult to me.
When I first came to Kabul, I was living with a relative. Besides me, there were another 15 people also living at the same house. I didn’t have any privacy or study space. When I heard of the young women’s scholarship programme, I applied and was accepted. Because of this help, I have decided that I will bear all the difficulties and will face whatever comes next. The reason I have accepted all these challenges is that I have a dream of studying and pursuing higher education.
Now I am not worried about paying the tuition fees, I have started concentrating more on my studies, and I now have the motivation for doing so.
My talents have started flourishing, and now I read more books than I ever thought I could. Since I was accepted on the scholarship programme, I have noticed a lot of positive changes in me. I am determined to make these changes and positive values a permanent part of my life.
I have learned from those who have helped me throughout my difficult time that I should not think only about myself. In return for what I have received, my duty now is to learn and give back to the extent that my capacity allows. I have learned that I need to work more on my sense of philanthropy.
If the scholarship had not been available, I would long ago have gone back to Waras, and I would have had to live with only the little knowledge that I gained from my time at school. I am really thankful to the kind donors who have provided such opportunity to us.