My name is Marya. I might be seventy. I was born in Saray Khoja in the countryside. We were four brothers and seven sisters and we lived in poverty. We lived in the country and there was no work. If we had food for breakfast, we had nothing for dinner. No one was educated. There was no money and our life was difficult.

I got married when I was thirteen to a man who was eighty. He had white hair and a beard and was very old. Families didn’t let their daughters stay single so they married them off. He didn’t have a house so we lived with his sister.

My mother-in-law and sisters-in-law used to hit me all the time. When my children were young my husband was ill. As a result, my older children were illiterate. I used to work as a tailor day and night with no light bulb. When my young children went to school, they didn’t have a bag. Sometimes there was no food and they cried. Sometimes they went to school with bare feet because they didn’t have any shoes.

I had a dream to go to school so I could have a better life, but we lived in a rustic area and no one let us study. This was the rule and tradition: girls didn’t go to school. Everybody had negative perceptions. The idea of girls going to school was shameful. No one was modern and there was a lack of wisdom. People would have made up many bad stories about a girl in school. Our families didn’t let girls step out the house. We had to stay home.

Now, I have three sons and four daughters. All of my children live with me. I have six grandsons and seven granddaughters.

We do not have enough food and we can’t pay the rent and the electricity bills, but we thank God that every child in our home goes to school.

By Marya, as told to Mariam Y.