It wasn’t easy striving for my education. At school, my friend and I were the only 2 girls in the classroom. Even though we’d hear negative comments daily, we didn’t let that deter us.
In the camp where I was born and grew up, there were many poor families who barely had food to eat; most of the children were malnourished. I wanted to help these families, but couldn’t. Now I can.
The most challenging part of my job is being the only woman amongst a team of men. I often travel to provinces and villages alone to conduct quality checks on projects. But living in a country where most people consider engineering a man’s profession, I am determined to build up my career in my field as an engineer. Especially because I have a passion for what I am doing. I want to prove to myself that I am not less than any man and I’m capable of contributing equally to the development and progress of this country.
Before stepping into this field, I played football for the national women’s team in Afghanistan. I played football for 8 years and later founded three football clubs for girls. Similarly, then, I had to prove myself as a football player, another field dominated by men; but if I can kick, I can build as well. I started playing football when I was only 6 years old.
In the beginning, I played on the boys’ team as there was no girls’ team. That was the moment I realised girls can be equal to boys.
I created my own football club when I was 9. Re-using old clothes, I made football trousers by cutting the long trousers or finding secondhand items. There were other girls who wanted to join my club, and for some I had to convince their families to allow their daughters to play sport. Eventually, I created a team of 14 girls all from different parts of Afghanistan. It was a dream come true. But this was not enough for me. This was just the start. We didn’t have a beautiful green lawn to play on or the proper football grounds, and we didn’t have the standard shoes, but we were happy with what we had, and we made it work.
I dreamt of going back to my homeland and playing for the national team. In 2009 that dream became a reality when I was selected for the national women’s football team in Kabul when I was just 15 years old.
The best moment for me is when my feet touch the grass and I breathe the fresh air; in that moment, I feel that I am a free woman who can do anything.
As a girl born and raised in a male-dominant society, being on the field gives me a feeling of freedom and power. I know that I am playing to strengthen my voice against injustice in the society I live in.
I want to be an example for young girls who think that we cannot achieve what we set out to, and as a result don’t dare to dream big or step outside of the social norm. That’s why I chose the field of engineering; I want to show society that girls can be engineers too. That’s my nature, I always break boundaries and go against the norm.
When I started working as an engineer, I felt so proud being amongst all the men. Especially when I visited the field and people would say, “Meet her, she is an engineer and has come to visit the projects.” I felt happy because I wanted to show other women and girls that they too can join this field and show the world that girls can work in any field. It takes hard work though – it wasn’t easy striving for my education. At school, my friend and I were the only 2 girls in the classroom. Even though we’d hear negative comments daily, we didn’t let that deter us.
Before starting my work with CTG as an engineer, I used to work with different organisations where I traveled to the field. In a male-dominated society it’s not easy for a woman to visit the rural areas; everybody stares at you. When I was travelling to Kandahar I was so scared because this was my first time travelling to the western part of my country and I read a lot in the media about the deliberate attacks on people. I felt as if I were an animal in a zoo; walking alone in the streets everybody stared at me.
Despite the hot weather I had to cover my face. I travelled to a district which was recently cleared from Taliban rule by the National Army. I was trying to keep calm but I was very scared as I was sure we’d be killed if the Taliban caught us. The Taliban don’t like women, in fact they hate the women who leave their homes and work. Even leaving my home and working outside is a daring thing.
Something that makes me feel more comfortable now is the communication from CTG. When I started travelling to the field, CTG updated me regularly about the risks and ongoing threats. Today still, they are in contact with me as soon I leave the office – it gives me the confidence to do my work.
As we know, engineering is a very challenging field to work in, and in countries like Afghanistan those challenges are heightened at every step, that’s why the best person suited for this field of work is someone who has strength and knows how to face adversity.