Afsana, a beautiful child in the Ingil District of Herat Province, wanted to go outside and play with her friends, but instead she found herself in a wedding dress, preparing to marry. “I was only twelve years old,” she told me.
“It was really hard for me to become a good housewife. I didn’t know how to make a good tea for the guests,” says the young Afsana as we sit together in a medical clinic in the conservative province. “At first when I cooked for my husband and his family, I burned my fingers because I didn’t know how to work with gas heat.” At her young age, she had no experience washing and ironing. She ruined her husband’s nice shirt trying to iron it for him. “It was not so easy,” she says.
Afsana is only one of many girls in Herat who have had to face forced and underage marriage. There are lots of these young girls who just have to be alive and suffer.
Afsana was forced to move into the house of her husband’s family—a strange home where she had to cook, wash, birth, and begin raising children. With two babies—one two years old and another just four months, she feels like her two year old is more like a young brother, not her son. But he is her son, already only the first of two children.
It was hard for her, she tells me. She felt useless to her husband’s family. Even though she was trying, they started to change their behavior toward her—their calling changed to shouting, and little by little their actions became more and more abusive.
Her health suffered, and she felt sad and alone. She didn’t even know what to do to care for herself during pregnancy. Her problems doubled, and no one could help her.
In calls home to her parents, Afsana lied. She didn’t want her parents to worry and told them things were fine in her husband’s home.
Now after bringing two babies into the world, Afsana worries. She says she doesn’t know how to be a good mother for her children nor a good wife for her husband. She asks that families not repeat this mistake made by her own parents. She wants other families to wait and educate their daughters.
Afsana sits with me at the clinic, looks at her baby girl, and promises she will do her best to educate her children and let them decide their lives for themselves.
I wonder if she will have the chance to make this so.