I was six when the Taliban took over Afghanistan and made it illegal for girls to go to school. So for the next five years, I dressed as a boy to escort my older sister — who was no longer allowed to be outside alone — to a secret school. It was the only way we both could be educated.
Each day we took a different route so that no one would suspect where we were going. We would cover our books in grocery bags so it would seem like we were just out shopping.
The school was in a house — more than 100 of us packed into one small living room. It was cozy in winter, but extremely hot in summer.
We all knew we were risking our lives: the teacher, the students, and our parents. From time to time, school would suddenly be cancelled for a week because the Taliban were suspicious.
We always wondered what they knew about us. Were we being followed? Do they know where we live?
We were scared, but still, school was where we wanted to be.
—From Shabana Basij-Rasikh’s TEDxWomen talk, “Dare to educate Afghan girls.” Shabana, now 22, runs a school for girls in Afghanistan. Listen to her talk and read more about her work at TED.com.