My name is Nour, I am 18 years old, from Algeria and I am a girl who rejected her reality and who is aiming for a better future. At some point in my life I realized that I am different, that I don’t think the same way my female friends think. There is something bigger than us happening outside; something bigger than my house, bigger than my village, bigger than our traditions, bigger than all of us, something called sexism. Yes, we are in 2017 and this word still exists.
Last summer, I won a scholarship and currently I am studying at the American university of Cairo, and for me this is the biggest accomplishment of my life so far. I am getting a better education and a better lifestyle and I am so happy that I have done this on my own. I was the one who chose to be here. I rejected the path set before me and I came here hoping that one day my name will inspire people the same way I was inspired by others. I came here looking for a new beginning and I made myself a promise that I will be the voice for those voiceless people I know in my country. And this is the reason why I wanted to write this letter. Although I only knew about it six hours ago, I grabbed a pen so rapidly and I started writing because it is my first real opportunity to fulfill my promise.
One of the voiceless people I knew back in Algeria was Khadija, a simple quiet girl I studied with in high school. She was one of the most brilliant students in our school, everyone expected her to end up as a famous lawyer, a great doctor or even a teacher. But the truth is nothing of that is going to happen. Once we finished high school, she was forced to get into a textile workshop because her father didn’t allow her to go the university because she is a girl. Yes that’s right, it’s like being a girl is an insult or a crime or a reason for depriving a person of a higher education.
One more thing I want to talk about is marriage. Marriage is supposed to be one of the greatest things that humans do. It should be based on nothing but love, but in my country, marriage is viewed by some people as a contract, in which the groom point out a long list of conditions that the bride will have to agree to. The bride might not be allowed to work once married or will have to live in her husband’s parent’s house and serve them for the rest of her life.
From my point of view, the problem is not in Khadija’s father or in the Algerian grooms but it’s in Khadija herself. It’s in her mother, it’s in the bride herself, and it’s in all women who accept this treatment just because they are women.
Are you one to sit back quietly? You may be hurting yourself and others. Speak up and show the people what you are made of. If you don’t think that you are worth it, do it for the others women around the world, women that are going through the same suffering you went or you are still going through. Believe me they are worth it. Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute, for all those being crushed. Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of the unfortunate. Speak up for those who have no voice. Repeat after me… I am a woman, I am smart, I have opinions, I have feelings, I care, I make a difference, I matter, I am a woman and I am proud of who I am.
Age 18, Algeria