“I’m most excited to see the sky without walls.”
I’ve been thinking about walls more since a conversation we had with Sultana last Friday afternoon. Four people (me, Faraz, Emily, and Sultana) in four different locations connected by high speed internet. The technology we have today is miraculous in its ability to help us bridge divides and overcome barriers.
Here is a young woman who has been trapped inside walls most of her life. She was threatened with grotesque violence simply because, as an eleven-year-old girl, she wanted to attend school. “When I go outside,” Sultana told us, “it feels like I am a piece of meat and surrounded by wild, hungry animals. Even if you are fully covered up, men stare at you.”She told Emily once in a previous conversation that when she let her voice be loud enough to be heard beyond her compound’s walls, men outside picked up feces and threw it toward them. If she does go outside, she must be fully covered in a burqa.
Yet when we spoke to her last week, Sultana wore no burqa (pictured here), hidden as many in her community would like her to be. Instead she appeared simply as herself, a teenage girl in her home, surrounded by books, talking to us through her iPad.
Still, as amazed as I am by technology’s ability to erase distance and break through barriers, I am equally frustrated that even today so much energy goes into building walls to confine so many people, especially women.
And while it is more visceral, more drastic in a place like Sultana’s community in Afghanistan, for girls like her, I know that the tendency to divide, conquer, and stifle others is in every one of us. In upcoming posts you will hear more about this girl’s unstoppable spirit, and I’m certain she will inspire you like she has us. But you should also remember that for every courageous Sultana, there are countless other girls and young women who do not have the opportunities or the connections she has to change her situation.
And they’re not just in Afghanistan. They’re in your community too. My community. If you take nothing else from this story, I hope you remember that in every situation, you have a choice to build walls or to build bridges. Which kind of builder will you be?
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Story by Courtney Ball, Photos provided by Sultana.