“I didn’t want to be confined to four walls like other girls. I wanted to live freely like boys. So at the age of four, I took all my girly clothes outside and I burned them... And my father named me Changez Khan.”— Maria Toorpakai Wazir in her TedEd talk.
Maria Toorpakai Wazir, a world champion squash player, lived the life of a boy for most of her childhood in Pakistan’s Waziristan. As Changez Khan, she got to do things that girls cannot in Afghanistan and rural areas of Pakistan.
In Afghanistan, this is standard for some girls in their childhood (video above). This tragic hidden practice is called “bacha posh” which literally means “dressed up like a boy” in Dari.
Jenny Nordberg, a Swedish investigative reporter, discovered this practice in 2009, and broke the story for The New York Times and later wrote a book The Underground Girls of Kabul. The book has inspired many to share their childhood stories, which reflects how the gender divide has affected generations in Afghanistan during the decades of political and religious war.
“Bacha posh” has also been depicted in Iranian movie director Majid Majidi’s 2001 film Baran.