STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Life has changed for Afghan girls. For all the bad news from Afghanistan, any given 15-year-old girl is likely a little bit better off than her mother was at 15. For starters, she is more likely to be able to read. Yet, an educated 15-year-old Afghan girl may never get to use her education. It's one of the realities we are finding as we listen to 15-year-old girls around the world. Their experiences say a lot about the societies in which they live. NPR's Rebecca Hersher reports.
REBECCA HERSHER, BYLINE: I found the girls at a school called Tanweer in a lower middle class neighborhood on the south side of Kabul. The kids jostle through the gates early in the morning, boys in neckties and girls in the national school uniform, white headscarves, just in time for morning meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED STUDENTS: (Singing in foreign language).
HERSHER: As the meeting ends, the high school girls go up a flight of stairs to a classroom where they all study together.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Hello.
HERSHER: They have to push aside this big, white sheet that's draped over the doorway. I ask them, what is that? So the boys can't see in, they say, and the girls can't see out. Inside the classroom, we pull the desks into a small circle.
HADIA DURANI: (Foreign language spoken).
HERSHER: As they walk to school every day, the girls say, boys and men yell at them. They tell the girls they should stay at home. Hadia Durani is a 10th grader, definitely one of the cool kids.
HADIA: (Foreign language spoken).
HERSHER: Hadia says she feels way safer when she walks to school with other girls. And her friends agree, stick together; keep your head down, and ignore it. But 15-year-old Layli isn't buying it. She mutters something under her breath. What was that?
LAYLI: (Foreign language spoken).
HERSHER: "I just want to punch them in the face," she says.
HERSHER: These girls are pretty gutsy. They're also lucky. At this point, high school, a lot of girls their age have just dropped out - too much social pressure from their families. So these girls who are still here, they have big dreams.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL #1: I want to become a president.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL #2: Brain surgery.
HERSHER: Brain surgeon.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL #3: I want to become a good doctor.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Doctor.
HERSHER: She wants to be a doctor. These are super ambitious girls, like Somaya Rahmanzai.
SOMAYA RAHMANZAI: (Foreign language spoken).
HERSHER: She's 15 and geeky and crazy confident. I mean, you can hear it in her voice.
SOMAYA: (Foreign language spoken).
HERSHER: She says she wants to be a brain surgeon so she can inject people and also make them better, she adds - of course, make them better.
SOMAYA: (Foreign language spoken).
HERSHER: Somaya knows that to be a brain surgeon, she'll need to go to college. Same with Hadia and Layli. When they graduate in a couple years, they all want to go to college, which probably won't happen. First, in just a couple years, these girls will turn 18, old enough to get married. Plus, for every available college slot in Afghanistan, there are about five students who want to go. But these girls, they're just teenagers. They actually don't know how hard it's going to be for them to do all these things they're so excited to do. Rebecca Hersher, NPR News.
INSKEEP: Remember, we're hearing from 15-year-old girls around the world. And if you are or were a 15-year-old girl, this program wants to hear from you. What was your most difficult challenge at 15? Tell us on Twitter and use the hashtag, #15girls.
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