In the cold of winter, we celebrated International Women’s Day – two days early – on the peak of one of the most difficult mountains that surround Kabul.
On the morning of March 6, I walked into the Mountain Climbing Federation room where the girls were preparing to depart for the mountain. The room is very small – 10 people can hardly fit inside – and the girls were struggling to find space to put on their climbing clothes. Everyone was running around. Ustad Farhad, the technical trainer, was packing ropes, harnesses, and carabiners, and telling everyone there’s five minutes to leave the federation and get to the bus. The girls filed out of the room and stood in a line outside the federation, waiting for their trainer to tell them that they could start walking to the bus. He whistled and the team started walking. We’ve rented two buses, one for the guests that are coming with us and the other for the team.
I got to the bus with the girls, and we asked driver to turn the music louder and we started singing and dancing in the bus. It took us 30 minutes to get to the mountain, but our second bus broke a wheel on the way, and we had to wait for our guests to get there. While we waited, I asked the girls if they had celebrated March 8 before, and none of them said they had. Most of the girls told me that they had no idea what that date was. I told them about it, including where it started and how it became an international day to honor and support women.
Our guests arrived. We all gathered for a group picture before the hike and started walking toward the mountain. Snow started to fall as we got closer to the mountain. The weather got colder and the wind picked up. Our team does not have waterproof gear or equipment, but what we have is sufficient. The girls aren't bothered by the weather. I asked if they wanted to stop, but Farahnaz, 21, tells me, "We are Afghan girls; we were raised in the mountains. Today nothing can stop us from reaching the peak of this mountain."
The fog made it difficult to see where we were stepping, so the team had to stick together. Snow was falling faster, and our guests were getting tired. Two of them didn’t want to climb any farther. We took a break for water and food, and, with the support of the team, our guests started climbing again.
After hours of climbing in snowy, windy and cold weather, we arrived at the peak. Girls started shouting and screaming, “We arrived!” “We made it!” and “We will make it to Noshaq!”
My experiences in Afghanistan marking International Women’s Day weren’t always as pleasant. Usually organizations arrange a conference or a meeting where men sit in the first row and women are in the back. The men speak about the role of women in society, and after the speeches, they distribute headscarves to women as gifts. I never liked those conferences, and refused to attend. But this year, we went to one of the highest peaks in the Kabul area and celebrated March 8 with love, laughter, happiness and strength.
Happy International Women's Day!