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Me: ” I don’t want to take biology for studies, I want to choose computer sciences”Society: “But you are a girl!”Me: “I want to opt for pre-engineering and not pre-medical”Society: “But you are a girl”Me: “I want to wear T-shirts and skinny jeans” Society: “But you are a girl!” And this time “A ‘Pathan’ girl”Me: “I want to travel with friends” Society: “But you are a girl, a ‘Pathan’ girl. How can you go alone? What if our Pathan men see you with other men? Taking pictures and that too in jeans and shirt? Never! “Growing up while listening to all these things, it hard to imagine where I am today: but not impossible. I come from a Pathan family and lived in Peshawar for almost 13 years. I have struggled in living with constantly and reluctantly conforming to the illogical norms of my society. Not wearing jeans after I turned 11, having dupatta on me all the time because otherwise men would stare, not making a lot of male friends because I’ll be automatically considered characterless, living with an ultimate goal of marrying a man who will take care of me because I am so weak, etc etc.I was called stupid for taking subjects like computer sciences and pre-engineering. In fact I remember once one of my cousins told me that I wouldn’t get any benefit out of these subjects because I’m a girl. LOL. I was a rebel since birth, I never settled for the stereotypes and went on taking whatever subjects I liked, of course with struggle. I opted to do my BSc (hons) in Social Development and Policy from Habib. And the subjects which I had taken previously like physics, Maths and Computer Sciences helped me in studying courses like Energy and Quantitative Research Methods of my degree. Knowledge never goes to waste!When I came know about UGRAD through my University, I wasn’t at all sure about applying for it. I checked all the details and found out that it was that opportunity which would open the doors of acceptance, tolerance and freedom of choosing the field of education for the women in my family and community! NO WOMAN from our family till this generation has traveled abroad for education. They only got the chance to travel either with their fathers or husbands. Traveling alone in an unknown group of people, and then especially males was a BIG DEAL! But then I used to think that someone has to take a step; it would either make things or break things, but not try? Through this program, I had a belief that I will pave a path for the other females in my family, prove to the society that a girl can travel alone, she can travel with male friends, she can wear what she wants! Not her clothes but her work defines her character! I wasn’t sure if I would get the interview call even, but I wanted to do something for the women in my family, in my Pathan community!After submitting the application, I was kind of relaxed because I thought at least I tried. I wasn’t much excited about the application until that one day WHEN I GOT THE INTERVIEW CALL! That day I realised that I’ve got into something really big and now getting to the end of it was my goal! Passing the interview with flying colours, I saw my mom smiling with happiness spread all over her face and bringing my acceptance letter to me! Very happily, she told me that day that “Kulsoom, I did not get to enjoy this age in my life, I got married earlier and got busy with other priorities. But you, my daughter, take a full advantage of this opportunity! Make your family proud by displaying the beauty of our culture there in US and have the time of your life!”. She was the one who, an year ago, couldn’t think of sending me abroad all alone. I can never forget these words. A lot of people told my dad to stop me from traveling alone, but my dad’s only reply was that she has gained this all for herself with her own struggle and she will go! On 1st January, 2018, I will be the first girl in my family to travel abroad for Studies! And hopefully an example for my younger sister and all the girls in my family! 

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