About the author: Bahara Hussaini is a new teacher at Star. She graduated from Kabul University with a degree in English Literature. Now she is majoring in Political Science and Public Administration at the American University of Afghanistan and plans to work in women’s capacity building in the future.
When I was a small child, I discovered that the world was unfair. I recognized that there was a big difference between me and my brothers. My father paid more attention to my brothers’ studies while my mother insisted that I learn housework. Sons are valued more and daughters are considered a misfortune.
I remember how my father asked my brother about his studies and became angry if he wasn’t doing well. I was happy when my father did not ask me about my studies. I wrongly assumed he was not worried about my education because he knew that I did well in all of my subjects. As I grew up, I understood things better and began to receive a different kind of education.
There were hidden books of compulsions and secrets shared between my mother and our female neighbors who sometimes came together for various traditional events and holidays. One woman was forced to marry a man whose sister was selected to marry her brother. Another one said that she was never given the right to get an education because this right was for men only. The next woman asserted that she bears the beatings of her abusive husband for the sake of her five children. And one of them said that she has to work inside and outside of her home because her husband was addicted to drugs. At the end of their gathering, my mother and her friends agreed that it is a misfortune to be a woman.
There is a common expression in Afghanistan about girls. People say three “Oh no!”s to express their disappointment and grief for girls. The first “Oh no!” is said when the girl is identified as a female at her birth. The second “Oh no!” is said when she gets married and leaves her parents’ home because this is when many new problems will begin for a woman. The third “Oh no!” is said when she dies when people think about the lifetime of struggles the woman had to face before her death.
By the time I was 13 years old, I had clearly understood that I was one of these unfortunate women. As I became older, I witnessed and experienced more of the serious challenges against women in Afghanistan. Women are burned alive. They are killed by their husbands for not accepting their illegal and inhumane demands. Women are sold by their families and utilized as mere tools without any respect for their human dignity. They are considered weak and dependent upon men. These challenges made me fantasize about being a man who is always considered worthy and important.
Whenever I experience or witness injustice against women, I wonder how life would be if I were a boy. It is a thought that compels me to imagine what I could do for women if I were a boy. I pity the men who do not realize the value of women and treat them as a second class gender. If I were a boy, I would respect men and women equally. I would listen to women’s problems patiently without shouting or assuming that her problem is my weakness. If I were a boy, I would honor their needs and wishes. I would value each drop of their tears. I would respect all women as I respect my family. If I were a boy, I would recognize the value of their humanity. I would not consider them as second sex but as angels who care for me the same as my mother, sister, wife or daughter. I would ask them to openly share their opinions and ideas so that we may consider the rights of the other half of the population in the world. If I were a boy, I would treat women in a way which would correct their misconceptions about their birth being a misfortune. I would decrease and, if possible, eliminate gender discrimination by respecting and accepting men and women as equal. If I were a boy, I would try to reverse the traditional beliefs that women are a sign of shame, a source of problems, and a cause of unhappiness. I would change those beliefs so that people recognize women as a symbol of pride, kindness and blessings.