HOW GIRLS ARE USING ROBOTICS TO BUILD THEIR FUTURES | FATEMAH QADERYAN | 2018 OFF in NY


Salam! This is not just a greeting from me, but from all the young leaders of my country. As a child, my world was filled with curiosities. A world filled with why and how. I had a boundless passion for understanding how the world works. Watching documentaries about technology was a favorite pastime activity for me. I slept with a book under my pillow every night. I walked around with so many books in my school backpack that my mom would often ask whether I had filled it with stones. I was 6 years old when I first saw the movie “Robots.” This is when my passion for technology started. After a time, my imagination grew and became a dream. I wanted to go to school to learn as much as I could, so that one day I could build my own robots. But I wasn’t aware of the dangers of dreaming in my country. In my country, girls are not supposed to be curious. instead they should be calm and shy. Such curiosity for a girl was considered a crime. My mother told me stories about the dark era of the Taliban who would force women to stay inside their homes so they would be easier to control. The Taliban insisted that the Mullah’s words be accepted as truth, without question. They destroyed the power of knowledge and imagination and left no room for innovation and scholarship. They kept everyone in the dark in the name of Islam and Sharia law even though everywhere in the Quran, curiosity and scholarship are encouraged. Afghanistan is a place where Rokhshaneh was stoned, where Farkunda was burned and where women are mutilated, but here are still signs of hope. Now 37 percent of Afghan girls attend school. But due to economic poverty, teacher shortages, lack of security, teacher shortages Lack of opportunity and the Taliban’s continued presence in parts of the country millions of girls and children are still denied access to education. And even when girls have the opportunity, cultural barriers and prejudices stand in their way. From the beginning, my team and I faced many challenges. Our team’s name is the Afghan Dreamers. It was created through the Digital Citizen Fund and with the support of our instructor, Mr. Alireza Mehraban. Many of my relatives did not understand or support my interest in science especially because mechanics is such a male-dominated field. My father was the only person who supported me. He accompanied me to all of my team meetings and attended every competition. When our team got the opportunity to compete, many of the girls could not participate because their families were very conservative, they did not allow them to compete and prevented them from coming to meetings. One of our challenges was the denial of our visas to the U.S. which we were finally able to receive following intervention by the U.S. president. Our decision to break our silence led our team’s story to reach the ears of millions of TV viewers and social media networks. And when our petition was signed by 53 U.S. congressmen and the story of our courage was forever recorded in American congressional history. Finally, we won and returned to our country with a silver medal. This medal sent a message to everyone who doubted us. We proved that if Afghan girls and women are given the smallest opportunity they will reach their full potential and will hold the Afghan flag high on the global stage. A week after our return to Afghanistan, ISIS took my father from me. The last time I saw him was when he was leaving the house to go to the mosque. I was awakened by the horrific noise of a bomb. My mother had just finished her morning prayer and rushed out of the house with her prayer covering. My little sister was crying non-stop, and I kept calling my Father’s phone. but for the first time in my life, he did not pick up. I didn’t want to believe that my Father would never return home and that I would never hear his key turning in the front door. I believe that in the life of every child, there is a hero. My father was the hero of my life. Many months have passed since he left us, but I still cannot believe it. But what I do believe is that good people always leave us earlier. Another trauma was that our neighbors thought I was the reason for this incident They said if I had not been on the robotics team, this might not have happened. Everything in a child starts with imagination. After a while, imagination grows and becomes a dream. Once they have that dream, they want to achieve it in reality. But children who live in conflict zones can’t find any colors other than the blackness of bullets and the redness of blood. They can’t hear the beautiful song of birds over the loud sounds of guns and bullets. They accept that due to the situation in their countries they can only use the two colors from the whole coloring palette, and not more. They are forced to accept that sometimes their dreams will only remain dreams and that they are not capable of turning them into reality. When a father prevented his young daughter from going to school the daughter said, while weeping, in a shaky voice “I will not become a doctor, but you will become ill one day.” Many Afghan people in the older generation continue to hold the prejudices taught to them by the Taliban. But my era and generation is different. Children and young adults currently make up over 50% of our society’s population. Leadership must be in the hands of the youth, the generation that considers technology as a weapon against war, not the generation that considers the enemies of Afghanistan as brothers. We are the children of war. But we have proven that hope still exists and that it is this hope that will build my today and your tomorrow. My friends and I were the first to plant the seed of technology in our country. And today we are harvesting the results. At a recent meeting with our country’s president we were able to discuss plans for building the first technology school. We still can’t believe that not only does the president plan to build one of these schools but is even considering five of them. We are the ones who have started a technological revolution in our country. Despite the many challenges placed in our way we fight back with courage and determination now more than ever. We showed that the smallest opportunity can result in the greatest historical realities. We are happy that we were finally able to prove the importance of this vital field to the people of our country. And to show that today the pen is in the hands of younger generation the generation that views the world through the lens of technology. A thousand years ago, Afghanistan produced scholars like Abu Rayhan Al-Biruni, Avicenna and Balkhi whose scholarship influenced the history of knowledge in the world. Now it is our turn to write the new pages of our history through knowledge and technology. The children in my country no longer want to hear the sound of guns and bullets. We do not want to be bystanders anymore. We want to become the actors. We must be creators. We do not want to live in fear of disruption resulting from international relations and imports. We want to produce and be exporters. Always remember that me plus you equals us. I want to change your image of our country. My teammates and I know the dangers under the water. And yes, we know there are sharks that want to make us their prey. But we also know there are shiny pearls in the depths of the ocean. We will go to them by swimming in the deepest water, and we will harvest those pearls. In the end I want to say, I hold to this belief that we cannot predict the future but we can build ourselves so that the future we want becomes inevitable. Thank you.

4 Comments

  1. Zayzafooun said:

    Brilliant!

    October 10, 2018
    Reply
  2. Reza CHendawuli said:

    شما نمودی از شجاعت و غیرت هستید دختران وطن رنجدیده ام

    October 16, 2018
    Reply
  3. SuperSimpleasthat said:

    Hero of all Tajiks!

    December 28, 2018
    Reply
  4. Mohammad Jan Gholam Qaderi said:

    آفرین دختر قهرمان وطنم برایت افتخار میکنم

    February 18, 2019
    Reply

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