A Letter to Fathers of Afghan Daughters
TO: Fathers of Afghan Daughters
FROM: An Afghan Daughter
I was so saddened to read the BBC news story about an Afghan mother who was killed for giving birth to a third daughter.
In an article released by edition.cnn.com on February 1, 2012 which shows the CNN.com International report: “In the second quarter of last year , the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission registered 1,026 cases of violence against women. In 2010, it recorded 2,700 cases.” These numbers underestimate the problem, because violence, in villages, is not recorded. And there are many more cases, unseen by the media, where Afghan daughters have been killed for small mistakes or simply for being born.
Fathers, I want you to know that there is no shame in having daughters. In fact, so many international studies show that if you nurture and educate the daughters in a society, they will grow into women who will help their families, communities, and country, move forward to find peace, stability, health, and economic development. If you give your daughters an education and give them the opportunity to learn to think freely and critically and to find their voices, they too will turn into women who can use their abilities and knowledge to improve the situation for their families and for Afghanistan. They will help Afghanistan imagine a different future beyond today’s reality. Today, most of Afghan women do feel shame for being daughters because they have been treated only as suppressed women at homes, schools, streets, and even work places. Let the fear, shame, and guilt that your daughters feel for being Afghan women fall away and give them freedom to first hope for and then work for a better Afghanistan. Do not kill them; rather, let them fly. Do not be ashamed of them but rather be proud.
Let me offer just one example – my own. With my Father’s support, I left the instability of Afghanistan and the dust of Kabul’s roads in August 2009 to study at the Asian University for Women (AUW), a liberal arts college for women located in Bangladesh. I studied politics, literature, history, poetry, philosophy, mathematics and photography and I found my voice and my passion as a writer and photographer. My professors and advisors came from all over the world. They encouraged me and taught me to believe in myself. They saw my hopes through my eyes and taught me to be proud to be an Afghan daughter and woman with my own unique voice, talent, and glittering eyes. I began to love learning and to find joy in each day. Now I know that no challenge is insurmountable and change is possible. I want every Afghan daughter to be nurtured and educated in ways that make them proud to be Afghans.
During the summer of 2011, I spent a month at Stanford University in the U.S. with two dozen of my university colleagues in a program aimed at developing our thinking about leadership. I learned about history, democracy, politics, and feminism. We discussed ideas, compared our experiences, and discovered a world beyond our imaginations. We walked freely on campus and we walked alone or together-- as we chose. We met many strong women, especially Dr. Condoleezza Rice, who made us feel proud of our education and our womanhood and inspired us to work not only for our families and our countries, but for the world. In that month at Stanford, we had real minds to think, our own hearts to beat, and joy in our voices.
On my first day home, my Father asked me what I had learned from the “Sar-Zamini Azadi Farhang Jaded” – the land of freedom and new traditions. I told him about Condoleezza Rice’s speech about the importance of women’s education and empowerment and I shared my learning about feminism with him. He had never before heard about feminism, but I explained to him, “Father, you are a feminist because you want me to be equal to my brothers as an educated and free woman.”
Imagine the difference all fathers of Afghan daughters can make for their daughters and for Afghanistan if they allow their daughters to become educated and self-confident women. Please Fathers, educate your daughters. They are Afghanistan’s greatest hope for a better future.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.