“We have to be united to move forward”

Maryam SamarInterview with Maryam Samar, young leader and aspiring human rights advocate

Translated by: Nematullah Ahangosh

Tell us a little bit about your childhood and your family. I am Maryam Samar living in Bamyan. I am an 8th grade student. When I was a kid, I was living in a remote province of Afghanistan, Daikondi. Although I was a kid, I faced many challenges. On the other hand, I wished to go to school just like other girls and boys my age but I lived in a family with eleven members – five sisters, four brothers and my parents.

My parents were illiterate. There was no school in our area. The closest schools were too small and not enough teachers, stationery or facilities.

My father was a gardener and my mother was a housewife. We lived normally until one day there was a heavy flood. My father was working in the garden and when the flood reached my father, his back was broken. Our situation became tougher and tougher. My mother was unable to look after us well and lost her hope. My older sisters got married, my oldest brother was illiterate and he got married as well. Three brothers, my older sister, my parents and I were all who remained. My sister tried her best to carry my father to hospitals and spent lots of our money, but my father didn’t recover so our situation got even worse.

How old were you when you moved to Shuhada Orphanage and can you explain why you moved there? When I was eight, I was wishing to go to school. I became smarter, older and understood most things. I was very interested to attend school, but there was no possibility of it. Afterwards a lady came from UNAMA and the Human Rights Commission and noticed our living situation. She took us to her office and introduced us to Shuhada Organization and Samar Orphanage and my three brothers and I began to live there.

Now I am very happy at Samar Orphanage. I am proud to live in a community that feels like my own home but even better. Now, I have another father and mother who are like my own parents. I found here my dreams and where I started the bright path of my life. Dr. Sima Samar and Mr. Abdulrawof Nawid are my stepparents. They are the best, they are the ones who supported me a lot. I am grateful. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. They helped me to study and supported my education. Now, I don’t really have one family but two, one in Daikondi and one in Bamyan who are very supportive.

You have been a 1st position holder in all your English classes, how is your performance in your regular studies? Successful people are those who have specific goals in their life. I have a specific schedule and do everything accordingly, which really helps. I believe in schedules and those who do their daily work by a schedule are more successful than those who do not. The lesson that is done according to schedule has significant effect. Firstly, when a student studies his or her lesson via schedule, they learn well at that moment. Secondly, we are not tired of such lessons. It makes us more motivated and studying becomes more sweet for everybody.

What are your favorite subjects? My favorite subjects are history, geography and literature or languages, especially English because it is an international language. English will enable me to serve my people better. Studying social subjects make me more curious and are expanding my knowledge. The seeker is the finder.

It seems that you are a role model for the other girls at Shuhada Orphanage, why do you think they look up to you so much? From my childhood, I started participating in teamwork. One of my keys to success was my ability in leadership. As I get older, I enter the world of leadership more and more. By leadership I can follow my goals and I can reach my dreams.

Who is your role model and why? My role model is Dr. Sima Samar. She is chief of the Independent Human Rights Commission. She loves her people like her family. She helps poor people and defends women’s rights. In her speeches, you will find that she speaks more about her country. She is the one whose hair became white because of her people and from my heart I want to become like her. I want to follow her way, and become helpful like her.

You were selected to participate in the Afghan Girls’ Leadership Program last summer. Please tell us about that experience. Last year I participated in Afghan Girls’ Leadership Program in Kabul where I leaned a lot. We went out to explore about people and helped them. We went to the Peace Park which was built by Afghan Peace Volunteers and we cleaned it. Afterwards, we visited the American University of Afghanistan, one of the top universities of its kind in the country. I did these things because I wanted to remind my people that only talking is not enough, we have to do things.  As cleanliness is part of our trust in God, we cleaned the Peace Park. Also, to remind them that only studying is not enough, we have to do everything.

What are your plans for the future? My plans for the future are helping people, creating freedom, to defend the rights of women and men and to become a good leader.

You were one of the first ten students in the ROYA Mentorship Program. Explain how the program works for our readers and what it means to you. In the ROYA Mentorship Program, all the students have sponsors who pay the costs of our English classes and weekly internet access. In Bamyan we all study at Pioneer English course. I think this program is the best. When I started studying in this program, I learned many things. This program should be running in all provinces of Afghanistan so that we can be witnesses of a better future. This program made me more hopeful and helps me to get nearer to my dreams.

You are being sponsored by Bev Clark, a very kind and generous woman in the U.S. What would you like to say about her and about all the sponsors who are helping ROYA students to learn English and technology skills? I thank Bev Clark very much. Her sponsorship helped a lot, so I will repay her support by studying hard. I would like to say for all other sponsors that they are creating hopes for the students and become our role models while we receive their helpful support.

If you could make one wish, what would it be? If I could make one wish, it would be peace in my country. One of the reasons that Afghanistan is backward is the low level of education. If there is peace, then we can educate ourselves. My other wish is to become a leader in the future and to be a role model for other youth; there should be no need for foreign countries to help us. I should be the one to make peace and education perpetual and long lasting.

Do you have a favorite quote or proverb? If so, what is it? My favorite quote is, “It is impossible to achieve peace without justice,” by Dr. Sima Samar. In Afghanistan, we suffer in the area of justice. Justice is obstructed by rifles and powerful people.

There are also many other problems in Afghanistan, including corruption, discrimination and insecurity. Therefore, our people need to accept each other. If governors and all of us focus on solving these problems, then our country will flourish in the future. Another quote that I like is, “We declare that national unity is a principle,” by Abdul Ali Mazari.

I know your life has not been easy, but you have been very successful so far. What advice do you have for other young people in Afghanistan who are facing many challenges? My message to the youth of Afghanistan is to find and follow a role model in their lives and to help the people in Afghanistan in the future. Young people should try a lot, and make use of all opportunities. Afghanistan is a home for everyone; we have to be united to move forward. Then other people can’t hurt us. Let’s build a peaceful and secured country in the future. I hope to be witness of that day.

MaryamSamar