Nila Ibrahimi used to love singing.
She grew up in Afghanistan and was part of a musical group. But that seems like a distant memory now.
“We sang songs about women’s rights, human rights and our own rights as children,” the teenager told CTV News on Saturday.
Ibrahimi was 14 years old when the Taliban returned to power. A top student at her school in Kabul, it happened while she was studying for exams.
One day, she was worried about her grades. The next: her life.
“I felt like I was not me anymore. I didn’t have the chance to be the childish version of me that I was allowed to before,” said Ibrahimi, currently a grade 11 student. “Everything was taken away from me, I had to become an adult that day. I couldn’t start crying; my family had other things to worry about.”
Ibrahimi spoke to CTV News at McGill University, where she was invited to speak at the annual Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan).
The organization supports Afghan women and girls with education resources.
Under the Taliban, secondary education and above is banned for girls. In some provinces, not even elementary school is allowed.
Ibrahimi and her family now live in Canada, but she continues to advocate for her friends back home.
“Their lives are being wasted,” she said. “And I feel really guilty for living here with the opportunities they should have as well. That’s what makes me heartbroken.”
But there are Canadian organizations helping.
For example, CW4WAfghan organizes online for women and girls in Afghanistan, helping them learn and connect with one another.
“Being prisoners at home, being denied education opportunities, bring this education in a safe mode in their homes and connecting them with their classmates — it doesn’t only provide them with an education opportunity, but also a sense of society,” said Murwarid Ziayee, senior director of CW4WAfghan.
Two years after the Taliban takeover, Ibrahimi says the most important lesson she’s learned — and the one she hopes the girls of Afghanistan remember — is that there’s always hope.
“More people are giving up on the girls living there, and I’m not one of those,” she said. “My age doesn’t matter, I know the strength my voice holds and I’m willing to do this every day of my life.”
“The only solution is hope.”