Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I am writing English!

Indicative Image from Pixabay
The power of Education in changing the course of one's life cannot be underestimated: and if it is in the context of a country that has only known war, the value of education in carving out a path of peace is of immense value. For Shabnam Manati, receiving and imparting education is a route to gender equality, and to peace. Here is her story.

I am 20 years old. I come from a fairly big family. I live with four brothers, one sister, my mom, and my dad, my sister-in-law, niece and nephew. There are eleven members in our family. I love studying and being educated on the one hand, and helping girls and women in my land to become educated, on the other hand. I graduated from high school, recently, and I have successfully passed the entrance exam that would take me through the portals of the Kandahar University, where I am majoring in English Literature. I have studied English and Computer Science Courses at KIMS (The Kandahar Institute of Modern Studies), and I am still receiving business management studies online from SAIT (South Alberta Institute of Technology) in Canada.

I work as an English Instructor in KIMS and as a tester with Pax Populi. The most interesting thing I really like about Pax Populi is that it is a peace building program that connects people with each other from all over the world. I love and feel lucky that I am a part of Pax Populi. I love to work for peace, and I love making this world a peaceful place for its residents. Working for peace gives me a very different feeling - something that words are not enough to explain. I like to face all my challenges and I am not afraid of taking risks. I love taking risks, struggle with challenges and overcome them all, and I will do that in order to make my country enjoy the benefits of education and make this world a peaceful place. I won’t finish my education just with a major in English literature I will pursue a degree in Software Engineering and will be a good software engineer.

Education was always a dream for me. When I was a kid of say, 5 or 6, I had a pen and a notebook and was making curvy lines on the book. I was telling anyone who asked me what I was doing, that I was "writing English". I didn’t even know what English was! Was that something to eat? Or wear? Or Drink? And look at me now! I am majoring in English literature. I am an English teacher now!

Life in Afghanistan in the past 13 years left me filled with many memories that made us happy and sad, not only for me, but also for other women and girls like me. After the reign of the Taliban ended, I was 7 years old. That was the time when I had to go to school. Up until then, I didn't even know anything about these things called "pen", "book" or "notebook". I didn’t know what a school was, and what education really meant. For me, it was so strange to go to school. But, luckily, we went to school with the support of my father and mother. We started to get education. My parents always supported us in how to study, what to study and what we can do to be the best at our work. Finally, we learned everything we had to know. We were going to school then, so the situation wasn’t so bad. We were growing up and still continuing our education.

When I was in the fourth grade, my classmate who was also my best friend, said that she was going to leave school and stop studying. That was shocking for me. Leaving school? What was that? She said it was because her parents had told her that she had grown up and didn’t need to continue studying. That was very bad news for me! While going ahead in my education, I noticed that my friends that were all getting married at very early ages. They were stopping their education. Some dropped out at will, some left school under parental dictates, some got married and were forced to stop studying, some were abused and decided to stop coming to school, and some were forced to stop going to school because of the unreasonably narrow-minded thinking of people around them.

I was a lucky girl. There was no one to stop me from studying and realising my dreams. My father wasn’t like many other fathers. He was always supporting me, and encouraging me to stay motivated about studying.

A few bad memories that life left me with was the bad security situation in our country. Hearing about bombs and explosions that leave many dead and injured, and the rampancy with which these incidents occurred made us live in insecurity and fear. We suffered. But, life has changed so much. Our country has improved and we have converted from nothing to many things. Despite all the challenges we had, we have improved. This improvement gives me strength to work even more for my country. I will serve my country till my last breath, and till the last drop of my blood is drained.

Life today in Afghanistan and specially in cities like Kandahar, Helmand and many other conventional cities can be challenging for women and girls like me. We face many trials. The main problems are cultural - there is an undercurrent that discourages girls from getting education or work. The other problem is child marriage. Girls get married before they reach the right age for marriage and these early marriages don’t let girls get educated. It totally destroys their hopes for the future they want, as education becomes difficult to impossible. I work in the hope of seeing a day - or rather, I am dreaming of a day - when no girl or woman faces problems in my country. I am in the hope of a day when girls and women in my country live without violence. Girls in my country deserve education, peace and happiness. To that end, I want to work together to make our country a free place for girls and women to get educated and to pursue their dreams without being abused, or being told negative things that can make them stop what they are doing.

As everyone else does, yes, I also do face challenges while going to work or university. But, I don't care about the challenges that I face in a way that they affect me. If the issue was caring about these things and worrying about them, I will never be successful or reach my goals. I like to take risks and overcome challenges. The only way out is to struggle and overcome all problems. The journey of life is filled with ups and downs and these ups and downs are meant to make us strong. Facing challenges and problems while working and going to university makes me even stronger and gives power to my will. There is a proverb in Persian that it says “hear from one ear and throw it from another”. I do this to all the negative things that people say, and all the negative stuff I hear.
As a teacher, my dream and wish for my students and the women of my land is a peaceful and a life with the brightness of education. I wish their dreams come true. I wish they won’t get abused anymore and there won’t be any challenge for them while getting education and working and I wish to see their faces a wearing the smile of happiness and success.  

I hope to finish my higher education and work for people of my country, and for people all over the world. When I finish my education, I hope to spread my knowledge to all girls and women inside and outside of my country. I wish to be a role model in the world of education. I wish to be an inspiration for parents who stop their daughters from getting educated. I want them to look at me and the girls like me, and see how we have improved, evolved and grown through education. I want them to see how we can improve our country, and our society, and how we can light up the future of the upcoming generations. I want them to know that their daughters can also be like us if they educate them. Educate your girls if you want to live in peace. Yes, if you want yourselves and your coming generations to live in peace, educate your daughters. That is the only way to peace.