Sometimes I close my eyes and review my life before the Taliban regime collapsed in 2000. I was a little girl, living with no electricity, no internet, no school, no social media, and no awareness of the world. Girls and women were not allowed to go to school. I had no idea about education.

I was always either busy playing indoors with my childhood friend or by myself. I always stayed at home. I was scared to go out. Sometimes I would put my ear on the floor in my room to hear what people were talking about in other countries.  I assumed the United States and other countries would be underneath our floor. I imagined the world was round and we were located on the top and other countries were underneath.  I made that assumption because my mother used to tell me that the earth is round, and when it is night on one side, the world is light on the other side.

I had no idea what my mother meant by saying the earth is round. I imagined that if we are on the top, other countries are underneath. Very funny indeed! I did that for hours and thoroughly enjoyed it. One day my mother saw me lying with my ear close to the floor and she asked what I was doing. I told her I wanted to hear other kids on the other side of the earth. She laughed and said I could not hear them because it is night time for them and they are sleeping.

When the Taliban went away, I started going to school. Day by day, I learned how to read and write and learned about my country’s location in the world. I saw electricity for the first time, then TV, and gradually I learned about the internet. I started loving the new version of who I was — hungry for education, independence and a more rational life. I learned the truth about the world.

I am very grateful for becoming the person I am today. I am so thankful that the Taliban left for 20 years. The end of the Taliban regime gave me a chance to get an education and to see the world from a realistic perspective.

Recently the Taliban took over again. I am so sorry for that. Taliban think women and girls should not receive an education and that women do not have the right to work or be part of societal development.  I have faith that the power of education is stronger than the darkness of these wrong assumptions. In reality, education is the strongest weapon that gives women the power to create a better society and to cultivate the seeds of equality among all.

One day, we will show the Taliban the importance and contribution of Afghan women, the importance of education and participation in society. I am one person out of many who has the strong faith that education will overpower this terrible extremism in our society. I know, because it has done that for me.

Please help Shagufa raise funds to pursue her education and help end child marriage in developing countries. Donate here: ShagufaGoFundMe