When my mother was twelve years old, she knew a lonely girl about the same age named Masooma who was her neighbor. This is her story.
Masooma was an orphan. Her father died during the war before she was born and after some time her mother realized she could not make it on her own. So she remarried, leaving Masooma alone.
When she was twelve, Masooma was working in a cruel woman’s house as a servant. At that time her biggest wish was to have her parents with her. She was alone, with no hope of enjoying life. She had no one to advise her, encourage her, love her, or help her. She had no time to think about learning—she just wanted to get enough food to survive.
Every morning the woman woke her up early to get the cows and sheep to the mountains for grazing. She had no lunch, and for dinner she was given a small piece of bread and a tomato. Having a piece of meat one day was like a miracle. She walked an hour to the valley each way to wash the dishes and clothes. Winter was the hardest. Her fingers turned black and she lost her fingernails in the freezing weather. She had no time to wash her hair or clean herself up. She had only one dress for five years. She passed the time with problem after problem.
After four years, to escape the woman she married a 21-year-old man named Zaeer. But things got worse. He was illiterate and worked with his father on their farm. He treated Masooma as his servant and she had to work even harder than before.
I know Masooma is not the only girl who faces such problems in Afghanistan. Some of our cultural customs have destroyed many women’s lives. Part of the problem is that in Afghanistan it is a tradition that the boy’s family gives a huge amount of money to the girl’s family in order to give permission for the marriage. But in reality it is as though the boy has bought the girl. This causes many problems.
Because of the money Masooma’s husband used to buy her, he felt he could treat her like his slave. He thought because he bought her, he could do with her anything he wanted.
I think in Afghanistan, the only solution to this is to discourage cultural habits that have bad effects on society. Culture keeps women from defending themselves. A group came to our school this year and as part of a lecture giving students and teachers information about human rights and government, they told us a girl should marry at the age of 15!
Instead of giving the children some good advice, they led them into the darkness. Let’s join together and stop early marriages to rescue the next generation from this huge hole.
By Alia, age 15
Photo by Phil Borges.
Well said, well done, Alia. It’s important to tell Masooma’s story. And it’s important to hear it in your words, and experience your observations and reflections. You are an emerging leader, Alia. Keep up the excellent work. Stacy
Wow! You are a smart young woman. It is so important for the future of Afghanistan that the young women are heard and empowered. Marriage is a very tricky situation, but also a space in which real progress can be made. You are the next generation and need to show your parents what the future should look like. Please be brave and be strong! Suzanne
I think it is important for others to know about forced marriages at such a young age so they can also help end this problem. It must be hard to be a young girl and know it might happen to you or a friend. I have a friend here in America who left here country and family to escape forced marriage. I am happy she has been able to become a professor and marry someone of her own choosing but it is still hard because she loves her country and her family too. Keep writing and inspiring others.
I think you are exactly right – the answer to the problem is surely as you say to “discourage cultural habits that have bad effects on society.” It is difficult for many girls to move into the future when old traditions like this have such a stronghold on families. Nice story- Susan P.
Alia, You are so wise and have such a gift. Thank you for your very strong story and especially for sharing it with the world. You have an important role to play in the world and you are doing a wonderful job by using your voice.
Thank you for sharing Masooma’s story. Your writing was so clear and compelling that we can learn so much from what you have said. I feel so sorry for Masooma and the other girls who are in similar situations. At first, your story sounded like an old fairy tale about a young girl working for an old woman. Most fairy tales end with the heroine living “happily ever after.” Sadly, this is not the case for Masooma and other girls caught in the old culture of Afghanistan. You are so wise. I know you will make a difference for girls and women in your country. Thank you for your strength!
Alia this story is a lesson for me especially on food. I’m really thankful for the story you have shared and honestly I know that this story will also inspire other young girls around the world. I am 15 years old to, and I am speechless at what you and your family have to go through. But remain strong, have courage to share more stories. Thank you for sharing the story.
The story of Masooma is truly heart breaking. After being abandoned at such a young age to living and marrying abusive individuals. Masooma’s life story shows us the terrible conditions that many Afghani women endure. I am shocked by the fact that Masooma’s mother gave her up so easily after the death of father. Her mother acted on selfishness once she remarried. Masooma’s mother simply wanted to leave Masooma and start a new life. Even though Masooma’s mother gave up on her, I am extremely proud and inspired to see Masooma fight through all the abuse from her care taker and husband. Masooma’s story shows us that all odds can be against you and that you can still rise and be better than anyone would have expected. Keep fighting Masooma!
WELLDONE ALIA KEEP IT UP