Safe World for Women Logo


Anita-Haidary-YWC

Reflections on Harassment.

By Anita Haidary, co-founder of Young Women for Change, Afghanistan

Seeing a young student harassed on a bus, Anita reflects on a similar experience back home in Afghanistan...

I am 14 and for the first time I was harassed today; I was asked to not talk back. A voice, my friend, said your words will provoke him more. People will think you are the “bad girl”.

I swallowed my words and, with broken heart and hate for myself, walked away. I am thinking to myself:

I am wearing “the right length” of dress

I am wearing my scarf “the right way”

I am wearing “the right size” of scarf

I am walking my shoulders down

I am wearing “the right shoes”

I am walking “the right way”

I have lowered my gaze

I am not even thinking

I am not laughing

I am not speaking

I am hiding every piece of my existence

In fact I realized I don’t exist anymore; I am hiding every part of me that makes me woman. I checked “the check list of being good girl” and I have not broken any rules of being good. I did everything my mother said to do to be good. WHY I AM THE ONE? What did I do wrong to provoke him? My question is not answered. Thoughts of me being the cause bothers me. She is my friend why would she be asking me to remain silent if I am the wrong? There must be something wrong with me. I am scared, shaking I am walking as fast as possible to get to my home and ask my mother; what did I do wrong, did she forget to tell me about one of the “rules”? I see my door and I have never been happier to see it before. I am in my home and I ask my mother in hope that she tells me: You are not the wrong one. I realize the rule she forgot to tell me is that I am a woman and according to rule of being good “Everything I do is wrong”, my existence as women is wrong. I decided not to abide by rules any more. I decided to make my own rules. I decided to talk back and tell him that he is the bad person not me.

Next day:

I am harassed again, my friend tells me to remain SILENT again.

I know I am right, you can abide by the rules, I AM NOT; said to my friend.

I scream to provoke the fear in him, that women are humans.

 I scream to repeat his words and show him, his ugly picture.

I scream all the hate thoughts that I had for myself, to him.

I scream so he lowers his gaze next time he sees a woman.

I scream at him the loudest I can, I scream my heart out.

I scream so he hates himself for doing what he did to me.

I scream so he is ashamed of his existence like I was.

I scream to take ownership of my body.

I scream to tell him that I have voice.

I scream so he knows he is wrong.

I scream so he hides himself.

I scream all the hatred out.

I scream all my fear out.

I scream till he knows I am alive and will not live with “their rules of being good”.

I scream, scream and scream till my heart is empty and I find my existence that I lost in his words. I deserve to live and I will not remain silent and will not give anyone the right to tell me how to live. This is how my story ends. How you end your story is in your hands.