Now everyone calls me a hope

I am Robina Azizi, the same little girl who had ambitious dreams, who wanted to set foot in Afghanistan's war zone with full confidence and walk on the roads of her dreams until it ends with her happiness. But now I am carrying the dreams of millions of girls deprived of school on my weak shoulders! Although my shoulders are quite weak, my will is strong and resistant like a mountain. I feel the burden of raising the voice of girls deprived of school is very heavy, but I have raised my voice countless times with all my strength, because I and many other girls have been stopped from getting an education and going to school, which is our most basic human right. Now, with my trembling body and small stature, I have become a model of courage for these girls who have been deprived of education for over two years. During this time, the gates of schools and educational centres have been closed to these girls, and I have spent both my days and nights fighting for the brave girls of my country. I continue to try, and I will never stop.

Robina Azizi, that same little girl and now the same girl who has been deprived of school, the same girl who has shed tears many times to even have the slightest chance of visiting her school, is no longer silent. The one who, in the first half of the academic year in the tenth grade of the school, wore a black dress with a white veil, which was the adornment of a brave and dreaming girl, has not been worn out yet. This is not just my word; it is the voice of millions of girls whose school is closed.

Let me remind you of my bravery with deep pain: it was very hard for me to leave my school, my classmates, my city, and the dirt alleys. This pain will be unforgettable for many years to come. I experienced this heartbreak when we fled the city of Mazar-e-Sharif and the school of my dreams (Gohar Khatoon High School) to Kabul due to the threats of three members of my family. And still, I was not the only voice of myself, but the muffled voice of the girl who was bursting with tears and could not raise her voice on the international media of Afghanistan International as the representative of millions of girls left out of education. I had shed tears and promised that we would surrender. But that is no longer true; we will never surrender and us girls will remain steadfast as always. Running away from Mazar-e-Sharif was the deepest pain that I, as a student, experienced at such a young age. For some time, due to threats against my family, I ran away to Kabul. We ended up hiding there, and I didn't know how much more pain we could endure! These pains turned out to increase day by day, with the psychological pressure on my family increasing as well, because three members of my family died due to human rights activities. They faced the risk of arrest, imprisonment, and ultimately death.

One night I dreamed that Robina was sitting next to a tree, and was playing childish games with other girls. That next morning, I promised myself to achieve my dreams and the dreams of millions of girls deprived of school and education! I was thinking how to start my fight and what will come out of this childish dream? I made a plan and launched a campaign to mobilize families. I set two goals for this campaign: first, the mobilization of families to support their daughters in continuing their education and progress, and second, to prevent the forced marriages of girls who have left school. I saw that Jaguneh, a classmate of mine who was a child, was caught in the traps of unpleasant chains of poverty, with her and her family’s hands tied, and was sold to a man twice her age. She left her dreams to the wind, sent to dry and barren plains. This story of my classmate made me very angry, and I stood up with more determination than before. Under the rule of the Taliban, I secretly started a campaign to support girls deprived of education and to prevent forced marriages of underage girls. This act of mine made family threats more and more frequent as each day passed. My family and I resisted these pressures, and I went door-to-door asking families to support their girls' education and not to force their daughters into marriage, which would destroy their daughters. I informed nearly 800 families about this campaign. During this time, with many issues, such as mental pressure, threats, and the fear of falling into the hands of the Taliban, my whole body was tired and weak. But I tried and tried with all my heart.

After that, with the increase of insecurities and threats to the family, a number of my family members went to Pakistan legally. One sister, two brothers, and I escaped to this country as smugglers. On the way, I experienced the worst days of my life and we spent more than one night without even a bite of bread. But finally we took refuge in Pakistan. I am still sitting here silently and with all my heart I could feel the name of girls deprived of school and their dreams. After some time, with tireless efforts and with no resources, I created the Girls in the Path of Change (GPC) organization. The plan of this institution had been dropped in early 2022 because of the threats to our family. But as soon as I arrived in Pakistan, I stood next to the girls who were deprived of education, and I told them that you are not weak, that you should consider this as a bad situation, but simultaneously see it as an opportunity and a life challenge for us to take on, and that no matter what, we must fight. I told them that I named this organization "Girls on the Path of Change" because we will all change for the better.

By entering Pakistan, with both the creation and activity of the Girls in the Path of Change organization and my work and teaching to Afghan immigrant students in Malali and Esteghlal schools happening concurrently, I started mobilizing girls deprived of school under the umbrella of my new organization, whose influence spread wider and wider with each passing day. 

Later, I provided dozens and dozens of girls with English, German, Urdu, Turkish and Korean language training workshops for free. At the same time, I tried to include even more girls under my organization's educational programs. As each day passed, more girls joined us. Simultaneously with the beginning of language teaching, I provided motivational and reinforcement programs for these girls. As I did not have any financial resources, I used to read books day and night for the purpose of teaching girls who were deprived of education. Even then, I had not slept for days and nights, with my dreams tied to the dreams of all girls deprived of education. I would love to be a bridge for girls deprived of school so that they can experience flying.

Later, I started painting, photography and writing workshops. In this case, I asked for help from prominent Afghan journalists and writers, and they also stood by me and held the hands of girls deprived of education. Now, girls have the ability to become good painters, good photographers, and good writers. They depict their dreams in paintings, pictures, and texts. Deprived of school, the girls are called small and capable men as models of courage and heroes. At that time, happy tears flowed from my eyes; I had felt how delicious these tears were. When I saw girls deprived of education, and they were full of energy and ability, and I saw that this organization had been established and was very successful, it became difficult to describe my and these girls’ feelings into words. Sometimes I even said to myself, ‘How did I come here without any means?’ I really can't believe it. Now by my side, 600 dreams, 600 dreams and 600 girls on whom all the doors of knowledge were closed to them over two years ago, are fighting bravely today. Yesterday, tears of sadness and despair flowed from their eyes. Today, tears of victory, tears of happiness, tears of struggle, and tears of courage flow. 

With each passing day, the activities of my organization expanded. All of a sudden, great plans and programs came to my mind, and the only song that I heard was fatigue. It was effort, effort, struggle and struggle. Oh my God, what a pleasant song this was. After that, we created a new initiative under the umbrella of the Girls in the Path of Change organization: the boys section of this organization. I created the Youth on the Path of Change (YPC) committee to bridge the gap for girls deprived of school. Now, everyone is working together for girls who have been deprived of education.

This institution is currently active in more than 12 provinces of Afghanistan (Kabul, Baghlan, Balkh, Ghazni, Logar, Ghor, Badghis, Takhar, Kunduz, Badakhshan, Jawzjan, etc.), and the members of this organization provide educational workshops to deprived girls, such as a workshop to strengthen the culture of reading among girls, introducing useful books for reading, setting up motivational workshops for girls deprived of education, and finally, a book exhibition of handicrafts.

In continuation of the activities of Girls in the Path of Change, this time with the understanding of the Purple Nights movement, we launched an awareness and self-awareness campaign for girls deprived of school (one book, one community campaign). So far, this campaign has introduced dozens of girls who are deprived of school to all kinds of books.

Also, I and a number of members of the organization for girls have helped and cooperated to continue their education through online courses and programming.

In another initiative of Girls on the Path of Change and with the cooperation of a girl from America named Ana, we have provided more than 100 girls deprived of education with English language training, and also along with Ana (Corinne and Erin) are American citizens who also stand and cooperate with the organization.

All in all, these are not dreams, but heroic narratives of girls deprived of school.

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