Salima, 13, is the only girl in the settlement who is going to school. She is a self-taught and have learnt the Alphabet from her father. She has taken the entrance exam and have been succeeded in going to fourth grade.
She is a very courageous girl and dreaming for brighter future. She has fought her father to let her go to school and now she is advocating for other girls in the settlement. she has already started teaching some of them, including her sister. Slima wants to be a doctor. 
“Many of my classmates are asking about my home and my parents. I didn’t tell them that I’m living in a tent. They can’t understand me and will mock me instead. I’ve to study twice harder as them to show them I’m not weaker than them.”
Salima has also made a snowman in front of her makeshift tent to make the rest of the children happy. Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
AFGHANISTAN

Ashamed to say she lives in a tent

“When my classmates ask me about my home and my parents, I don’t tell them that I’m living in a tent. They wouldn’t understand. They would mock me instead,” says 13-year-old Salima.

We meet her an early morning after a freezing night with heavy snow fall. Soft white snow blankets the makeshift tents in this informal settlement on the western outskirts of the Afghan capital, Kabul. The settlement consists of around 50 families. Like Salima and her family, most of them live in tents.

“I’m too ashamed to tell my schoolmates that I’m living in a tent. They wouldn’t understand. I have to study twice as hard as them to show them that I’m not weaker than they are,” she says.

1.2 million living in informal settlements

More than 1.2 million displaced people across Afghanistan are living in informal settlements. More than half of them are children.

When I woke up and saw the snow covering the tents I thought, ‘I’ll make a snowman to make the children happy.
SALIMA, 13

As many as two-thirds of all people displaced outside their province are moving towards the five regional capitals of Kabul, Nangarhar, Kandahar, Balkh and Herat.

Outside her makeshift tent, a snowman with a red nose, a red cap and yellow gloves welcomes together with the neighbouring children. Some of them are dressed in thin summer clothes and without proper shoes.

“When I woke up and saw the snow covering the tents I thought, ‘I’ll make a snowman to make the children happy”, says Salima.

Salima, 13, is the only girl in the settlement who is going to school. She is a self-taught and have learnt the Alphabet from her father. She has taken the entrance exam and have been succeeded in going to fourth grade.
She is a very courageous girl and dreaming for brighter future. She has fought her father to let her go to school and now she is advocating for other girls in the settlement. she has already started teaching some of them, including her sister. Slima wants to be a doctor. 
“Many of my classmates are asking about my home and my parents. I didn’t tell them that I’m living in a tent. They can’t understand me and will mock me instead. I’ve to study twice harder as them to show them I’m not weaker than them.”
Salima has also made a snowman in front of her makeshift tent to make the rest of the children happy. Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption Salima, 13, together with NRC’s shelter technical assistant Masooma Qambari and other children living in the informal settlement on the outskirts of Kabul.

The only one in school

Salima is a very courageous girl and she dreams of a brighter future. She argued with her father to let her go to school, and now she is advocating for other girls in the settlement.

“I have already started teaching some of them, including my sister. You know, I’m the only one here going to school. All the other children are working collecting scrap from the street,” she says, and turns to the cheerful snowman outside her makeshift tent.

Out of the reported 3.7 million out-of-school children in Afghanistan, 60 per cent are girls, and in some provinces as many as 85 per cent of girls do not have the chance to go to school.

Over 1,000 schools were forcibly closed in 2018 due to a lack of security, which affected more than 545,000 children.

Salima, 13, is the only girl in the settlement who is going to school. She is a self-taught and have learnt the Alphabet from her father. She has taken the entrance exam and have been succeeded in going to fourth grade.
She is a very courageous girl and dreaming for brighter future. She has fought her father to let her go to school and now she is advocating for other girls in the settlement. she has already started teaching some of them, including her sister. Slima wants to be a doctor. 
“Many of my classmates are asking about my home and my parents. I didn’t tell them that I’m living in a tent. They can’t understand me and will mock me instead. I’ve to study twice harder as them to show them I’m not weaker than them.”
Salima has also made a snowman in front of her makeshift tent to make the rest of the children happy. Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption The first snowfall of the year is a happy news for millions of Afghans who have been badly hit by drought, but it adds misery to the life of thousands more living inside plastic sheeting in the informal settlements in and around Kabul.

Displaced multiple times

Most of the families in the informal settlement were living as refugees in Pakistan, but returned to Afghanistan during 2015 and went back to their villages in Kunduz Province.

Soon after they arrived in Kunduz, this strategic north-eastern province was captured by the Taliban. Seizing the city of Kunduz was the biggest territorial gain for the Taliban in the past 14 years – it also drove thousands of Afghans from their homes.

Almost two-thirds of Afghans live in areas directly affected by conflict. More than half of them are under 18 years old (47.3 per cent of Afghanistan’s population of 35.7 million are under the age of 15). They are exposed to escalating violence, forced displacement, the loss of essential livelihoods and limited access to basic services.

Read also the story: “If you are 13-year-old living in Afghanistan”.

NRC's shelter technical assistant Masooma Qambari, talking to Nazia, 11, taking care of her little sister wrapped in a thick blanket in one of the informal settlements in Kabul. The children are experiencing their third winter in this settlement. photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption NRC’s shelter technical assistant Masooma Qambari, talks to Nazia, 11, who is taking care of her little sister wrapped in a thick blanket in one of the informal settlements in Kabul. This is the children’s third winter in this settlement.