April 2015 - Afghanistan
Malalai is a 24 year old Afghan woman who enthusiastically takes part in the activities of the RET Women’s Learning Centre in Kapisa, Afghanistan. Her story reflects those of so many young Afghan women who are highly vulnerable because of their lack of educational opportunities. We tried as best we could to preserve her words and thoughts and bring her story to you intact.
Before I came to the RET Women’s Learning Centre I could not read and write and as I am disabled, I felt useless. I had wished to go to school with other girls, but attending a school was difficult as I was too old and would not fit in with other girls. I was always silent and had a sad silent life.
When I would ask my father for some money to buy something for myself my family would scream and tell me I was a useless person. I was always told that they expected nothing good from me and was asked to go back and sit in the house. I was a shame for my family and was chronically so sad that I was always crying.
When Miss Massuda, who is a teacher at the Centre, came to our home to talk about RET’s activities, she explained that they had literacy classes without any fees or expenses for school material. I decided to take this opportunity and improve my knowledge, change my life and show my family that I am a useful person.
Now I am a student and I can read, write and I know about my rights in society, I understand how I can protect my health, how to have good relations with my family and solve their problems. Also, I learned from RET how to improve my family’s livelihoods and mine.
I now have five chickens and I sell their eggs. With the extra money I made, I bought two more. My business is developing well and I can manage it with the bookkeeping methods I learned in the trainings.
To complete my earnings I have another job, which I am also doing from my home: I make jackets. Today, I do not care about my disability. I earn money and I do not need to always ask from others, I am very happy and my family changed their attitude towards me.
I wish to continue my education and dream of opening a big tailoring shop. I plan to learn an international language. However, I am sometimes afraid. I am scared that if I lose the support of the international community and civil society, my situation could go back to what it was. Afghanistan’s situation is always changing and we, as women, have smaller roles in society compared to men.
However, now at least I understand that I am not a weak woman and with the invaluable help from RET’s teachers I managed to show my family that I am not useless after all. My life has changed drastically, thanks to what I have learned at the RET Women’s Learning Centre.