I was born in the Kandahar Province in Afghanistan. Most people outside of my country have probably never heard of this place. My neighbors are conservative Pashtun, many of whom believe that women are not as mentally or physically able as men and are born to serve their husbands and raise their children. For as long as I can remember, I was determined to break this way of thinking through one of the most effective means possible -- education.
In 2006, when I was just a young girl, the president of a learning development organization came to my community and opened what is now the Kandahar Institute of Modern Studies. For the first time since Taliban rule, we had a school for girls. Initially, I was just one of six who walked through the doors every day, learning English and computer skills. Many of the men in our community, and sometimes even the women, disapproved of our attending school, but we persevered and my love of education was firmly rooted.
I went on to earn certificates in communication, computer programs and health. Four years ago, I entered a law school program so I could help women in my community receive fair representation. I'll graduate next spring. Yet even then, I will not be through with learning.
I've always felt a passion for running my own business, and a few years ago, started a clothing company of my own selling uniforms. I didn't understand what it takes and I struggled. Then, a friend of mine introduced me to PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS, a business training and mentorship program for women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan and Rwanda. With the help of this program, I learned to write a business plan, to properly track expenses and to market myself and my company. Perhaps most importantly, the program paired me with a mentor who has a similar business in the United States.
Education and programs like PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS have helped transform my life so that I may help other women realize their potential and work towards their goals. And just as it has empowered me, it'll provide opportunities to my community, beyond what they could ever realize. I know I can't change things overnight; no one can. I know I can't change the outcome for every single Afghan girl. But I believe that if every person takes even a small step towards bringing positive change for themselves, their family, their community, their country or the world, it'll contribute to a big change for tomorrow.