The Internet can be a world of information, communication, and entertainment for a foreigner, but for an Afghan girl it is a wonderland where she can enjoy complete freedom. Fortunately, many of today’s Afghan girls have access to the Internet and it is truly awesome how they are taking advantage of this phenomenon. The World Wide Web might have been invented long ago, but for many Afghan girls it is new and interesting.
Afghanistan has experienced three decades of war, affecting our country in several ways, but especially in the realm of education. Although our school standards are not as high as neighboring countries, Afghan girls are still coming first and second in educational competitions. Why is that? Because of the Internet!
The Internet has brought positive progress to girls’ lives. Now they can build on what they learn in school by going to the Internet to research or to solve problems. They can also use FaceTime with girls studying abroad to strike up conversations about their lives there and opportunities they have at school. Some lucky Afghan girls have even found their way to the best foreign universities in the world.
The Internet has not only helped Afghan girls with their education, it has also helped them gain the attention of their fathers and to become daddy’s favorite daughter. Today, Afghan girls can not only cook traditional Afghan food such as Palaw, Qoroti, and Kabab, but they are able to cook new kinds of foods from other countries, adding much to their parents’ satisfaction and pride.
Take me, for example. Although my parents loved me before I could cook, they would always talk about our relative Maryam who made such delicious food. When I started using an iPad, I would go to cooking websites to check out the recipes. I would read carefully, go to the market for the freshest ingredients, and look at the pictures. I started with easy ones and soon I was cooking every day. I could see my dad was becoming very proud of me.
The Internet has changed fashion in Afghanistan. In the past, while walking down a Kabul street, you would see gaggles of blue burqa-covered women or women in black clothes. But few of today’s generation still wear the traditional dress. Afghan girls are aware of up-to-date fashion and trends; they take an interest in Facebook and subscribe to special fashion sites. This is an exciting change for Afghan girls.
The burqas and chadaris are being replaced with jeans, pants, and short beautiful scarves. Kalawshes— the traditional black boots—are now rarely worn by today’s modern girls who prefer fancy shoes, sandals, heels, and slippers from well-known designers. We have added beautiful pieces from other cultures as well to our Afghan dress.
In addition to education, recipes, and fashion, the Internet has also brought many joys of entertainment to the lives of Afghan girls. Most Afghan girls are not permitted to hang out with their friends, go to parks, hotels, or cinemas. Afghan families are very protective of their daughters, and concerned that their young women will be harassed by strangers when they go out.
But today, because of the Internet, Afghan girls are actually happy to stay home and talk to their friends on Facebook, Viber, and Whatsapp. They can download and play games, listen to favorite singers, or watch videos on YouTube. They have access to movies after their home chores or studies are completed. They are not shy to share their ideas with people around the world: they can create an account and talk to whomever they want, on Facebook for example. The Internet has turned their homes into a cinema, a place where girls can feel the excitement of a concert or even imagine going to Disneyland. And the best part: they can enjoy their new life without deserting their families.
The Internet has completely changed the lives of many Afghan girls in education, fashion, entertainment, cooking, and communication. It is her gateway to a developed world, like a gold key that can open doors for her, solve her puzzles, and lead her to dreamland.
Photo by Graham Crouch/World Bank