Zohal was born in a poor family in a village near Kabul. She and her sister grew up without their father. They grew up without love or education, without hope or dreams.

When she was a young girl, Zohal’s mother had to marry her to a terrible man and because of the family’s poverty, Zohal accepted it. Her husband forced her to do negative actions with other men. When she refused, he beat her to make her obey.

Then, one dark night her husband tried to rape Zohal’s younger sister. Zohal asked her mother to stop him, but her mother could not do anything and so it was up to Zohal to stop him. To retaliate, her husband cut off her fingernails and chopped off Zohal’s beautiful hair. After that she was not allowed to go outside alone or do anything like she had in the past.

She felt she had lost her family support completely. She was still pretty and young, but very sad and hopeless. Finally she couldn’t tolerate any more and she decided she must escape and rescue her life.

She got herself a ride to the city where she went to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and asked for help. She asked to stay in their shelter where she is now safe. But without hope or perspective she cries and cries. Smiling and happiness are still strange to her.

By Fatima F.

Photo: Husn Banu Ghazanfar, Afghanistan’s Minister of Women’s Affairs since 2006. Photo courtesy US Embassy, Kabul.

AWWP’s writing on child marriage is being shared with Breakthrough’s campaign, Nation Against Early Marriage