Young life in Afghanistan


Sheema (name changed)
UNICEF/UN0484306/UNICEF Afghanistan
09 December 2021

In July, I completed my final high school exams and was looking forward to attending Kabul University to study psychology. I was getting ready to enter a new phase in my life - complete my higher education, make my parents proud and build the life I had always wanted.

Then, on August 15 this year, everything changed – especially for us Afghan girls.

It was a life-long dream of mine to become a psychologist. All I’ve ever wanted is to help the people of my country; create a better life for themselves (and for me); to help young people overcome challenges in their life, inspire them to raise their voices and to take control of their lives and their future.

Now, instead of meeting new friends, learning new knowledge and building new skills, I am sitting at home. Sitting. At. Home. It is difficult to describe the pain I am enduring.

Tell me, how do you process the seismic political shift and all it means for your country’s citizens? How do you describe the boredom that envelops you from the moment you get up to the moment you go to bed, or the fear that reverberates around your body when there is a knock at the door?  How do you not lose hope for the life that you thought you were going to have?

Tell me, please. Because I don’t know.

Pain only makes you stronger, they say. I agree. But, first, it stabs you; rips your heart out of your chest; hits you on your knees until you fall and lie numb. Then, if you survive, yes, maybe you will be stronger.

As I think about what the last three months have been like for people my age in Afghanistan, it is difficult not to despair. The people you know and love, have become the people you’re no longer able to meet. Our friends have left the country and we feel there is nobody left by our side. It’s tormenting to see friends who are the same age as me getting married – especially when you’ve always heard them talk enthusiastically about building their life and forging a career first. But I’m trying to be strong; trying to hope that, maybe one day,  they’ll revisit their dreams in reverse order.

I’m trying hard to think but all I see is a blank sheet. That’s what my future looks like. A blank sheet. I want a better life for the future generations of Afghan girls that walk in my footsteps. It’s a life we dreamed of having but will never have. A life of health, education, happiness, freedom and all the good things we deserve.

One thing that has given me hope through these last months is the work UNICEF is doing for Afghanistan’s children.

Throughout the upheaval, U-Report, a text message-based service, enabled young people, like me, to voice my thoughts and find useful information as we struggled to come to terms with what was happening.

At a time when so many were silent or had been silenced, U-Report had grown into a huge and powerful community of youth. It gave Afghan youth the chance to take control, ask questions and help to bring positive changes.

Looking forward to the coming years, I cannot help wondering what my beloved Afghanistan will look like. One thing I do know is that young people in Afghanistan are resilient and tenacious. We may often fall, but we always rise stronger.

Happy 75th anniversary UNICEF! Even during our toughest moments, you stayed and delivered. That, in itself, gave me and so many others hope. May we celebrate the 100th too! I hope the situation improves for us all, especially girls, and we can come together to celebrate better futures, for every child.


By Sheema (name changed), youth from Afghanistan