It began with a toothache when Golsom was thirteen years old, and developed into an upper jaw infection. Her village in Bamiyan province lacked any dentist or health facility, so her family just prayed for her. But it was not enough. She spent three months in bed without any treatment, and was left with a severe facial malformation.

After that, Golsom’s neighbors behaved differently towards her. People laughed and made jokes about her. She would never show her misshapen face, always hiding it with a scarf. When she was fifteen years old, her father became seriously ill and believed that Golsom needed some kind of a husband to support her after his death, so he forced her to marry a boy who had his own disabilities.

Golsom started married life with new problems. Not only was her husband deaf and mute, but he had a mental health condition. He was very disturbed and often beat her. After a year, Golsom became pregnant and had her first son. Now her responsibilities increased because she had to find food and clothes for the child. Nobody helped Golsom care for her son. Ignorant people thought she was not a good woman because she had a misshapen, distorted face.

After thirteen years of marriage and two more children, and during a time of insecurity and fighting near their home, Golsom and her husband fled their home. But in the process, her husband fell from a mountain and died. Now with three sons to look after, and no family or economic support, Golsom’s problems increased.

I was introduced to Golsom by social workers and I was impressed by her courage. She is a mighty woman who has raised her sons, faced discrimination, and solved her economic problems alone.

Today, forty years old, she lives in small village in Bamiyan and works hard as a farmer. But she still cannot participate in society because of her malformation. Maybe if she were a man, she could sell her field and have cosmetic surgery. But Golsom does not own the land she works because in Afghanistan, most women are deprived of property rights.

Golsom has always wanted an operation for her face. The women of Bamiyan decided it was important to help her, and we began a campaign. But as we are poor and have our own economic problems we could only raise $500, which is not enough for the operation. Now we wonder if there is a nonprofit that might help her.

Even though she is alone as head of her family, her problems have never stopped Golsom from living. She also maintains hope. She believes that one day she might get the surgery that will allow her to participate in society. Although people judge Golsom by her face, she never stopped doing her best and she never judged herself by her defects. Golsom is an example to us all.

By Arezu R.

Photo of Golsom by the author.