One of the women who was working as a legal consultant finished her elementary and secondary school in a suburb of one of the provinces. She was the only girl in her community who was going to school. Her community and relatives did not support her education but her father, who was both the son of a respected leader and an educated man, allowed her to finish school despite the lack of transportation and the distance between the school and their house. She said: "I knew it was my father's influence in the community that people did not stop me from school. Otherwise, I would be stopped long before I could ride the horse to school. But my father was so supportive that I had the confidence of a boy, now that I think of it. I recall my outrageous behaviors now, and I am surprised at the extent of my fathers' tolerance for my eccentric behaviors. I was riding my horse, racing with boys as fast as any man would do, while actually the girls were not supposed to even ride a horse. From the way people looked at me when I was riding my horse, I could see their resentment and hatred; I could read the question in their minds as to why would my father let me go to school with such outrageous behaviors. I am beginning to appreciate my father's support more and more now."
This and similar statements show that education for girls was slowly finding its way through families, but did not have a smooth and easy path. The support for a girl's education usually came from those who were educated themselves. Most of the women I spoke to described their fathers as supportive and encouraging mentors. Muslim fathers are the first guardians of women and they are normally the decision makers about a girl's marriage, education, and work. In order to maintain their reputation among the government authorities, many fathers who where working in the government chose to illustrate their modern attitudes by being supportive of girls' education.
The majority of fathers in the study were themselves first-generation educated, professional men. As one woman put it, "I am sure that my uncles and cousins envy the fact that my father is educated and has a job and prestige. My father, they say, was the youngest child and my grandfather's favorite. He wanted to give him every chance that was available for young boys. While my uncles stayed back in the town to take care of the land and the property, my father came to Kabul and finished his education. When they disapproved of my education, I thought they were taking it out on me." When the fathers were educated and part of the elite, the education of their sons was a common, accepted phenomenon. But even at this social level, a girl's education was still controversial.
As the first generation of educated women, most of the women in my study did not talk about their mothers. Mothers were invisible, with minimum or no influence in their daughter's education or choice of study. Most mothers were not educated themselves; among the thirty women, only two had literate mothers and the others never had an opportunity to go to school. The two women whose mothers were educated and working (in fact one had an educated grandmother, too), were the feminists who had unconventional professions: one was an engineer, the other a surgeon. The woman whose grandmother was also educated belonged to the ex-royal family who had exceptional exposure to the West and western ideas.
The engineer, whose mother was the first girl in her family to be educated, related to the stories of the other study women through her mother's experiences. That is, although she herself did not go through any hardship in gaining an education, her mother faced resistance: "I think my mother is a good feminist. She had really fought for her right of education. She always tells us about the difficult days that she had. She says she had tolerated many days when she was locked in a room without food and drink; and was punished with hard beatings. My mother was living with her grandfather, her father had died, and he [her grandfather] was a very tough person. He wanted very much for his sons and grandsons to go to school and was especially anxious to see their good reports. My mother went to school with a Chadari [veil] secretly, but "one day my grandfather discovered it, and, locked her in the room for two weeks in order to make sure that she did not go to school again. But since he was so anxious about his sons' academic performance, and his favourite grandson who was my mother's brother did very poorly, my mother tolerated all the beatings and persisted in sneaking to school. One day, my mother says, she brought her report of excellent performance while her brother had a poor report. She said after that day her grandfather did not oppose her going to school."