Escaping child marriage

Escaping child marriage

  • Afghanistan
  • Economic Crisis
  • Child Protection
  • Story

August 6, 2020

11-year-old Ilham* lives in Afghanistan. One day, she found out that her father and grandmother had promised to sell her into a marriage. Ilham's mother Rowaida (26) bravely challenged the marriage after learning about her rights at a World Vision Community Change group. Ilham and Rowaida share their story in their own words.

Ilham: I came home and found clothes and flowers from my father and grandmother. My mom asked what they were for, and they told us that they’d agreed to marry me off.

I cried. I was very upset. I didn’t want to be married. I want to go to school. I would like to go to university and become a teacher. I would be a good teacher; I would be kind to them, and I wouldn’t beat them. I would teach them painting.

If I was married it would be very difficult, I would be a miserable person. I would have to go to someone else’s house, and they wouldn’t let me go to school.

None of my friends want to be married. Like me, they want to go to school to be a useful person.

Watch Ilham and her mom Rowaida share their story.

Rowaida: I was shaking when I found that Ilham had been married off. She was sold for $4000 and my husband and mother-in-law were given $300 that day.

I was only 11 years old when I was married, and it was very difficult. At the time, I didn’t know women have rights. And I don’t want the same for my daughter.

If I had not attended this program my daughter would have been forced to be married. I went to my uncle who is influential in the government. He went to my husband and said, “If you do this it will be illegal, and you will be in jail.” After this, my husband and I had a fight and now I’ve moved out.

I’m worried about my children; I can’t sleep and all I can think about is their future. Because of our difficult financial situation, we live in this one room. I do whatever I can. I wash clothes, to be able to afford supplies so they can go to school.

Ilham^, 11, reviews her schoolwork with her mother Rowaida in Herat, Afghanistan.

Ilham^, 11, reviews her schoolwork with her mother Rowaida in Herat, Afghanistan.

World Vision

My family says if I agree to her marriage, she will have a good life and we will have something to eat. That is the same thing they told me. I told them I would rather go and live in a tent, but I won’t marry Ilham off.

The main thing is that women and girls should know their rights. Women are living like slaves in a man-dominated environment. Before then, I didn’t know my rights, but now I know that women and girls have rights too. That’s why I am supporting Ilham.

When I hear Ilham’s dreams, I know I will do whatever I can to help my daughter achieve her goals. We are not just a mother and daughter, we are friends.

World Vision brings local leaders and families together in Afghanistan to end child marriage and to keep girls in school. World Vision research warns an additional four million girls are at risk of child marriage in the next two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. These children face dangerous threats, but they have incredible strength and resiliency to overcome these dark challenges to survive, recover and build a new future. Learn how you can support children like Ilham to move from victim to survivor --- and from survivor to overcomer.

* name changed to protect her identity.

What can I do?

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One in three

Afghani girls are married before they turn 18.

More than 10%

of registered refugees in the world today are from Afghanistan

Afghanistan is a primarily agricultural country in Central Asia, producing some of the world's best pomegranates, grapes and sweet melons. Afghanistan has been in an ongoing conflict since 2001, a radical political group has waged all out war against the government and taken control of many parts of the country.

In Afghanistan our projects focus on community building programmes. Their success relies heavily on collaboration with local community and faith leaders. Sensitively administered with respect for local culture and beliefs the programme currently facilitates community awareness sessions for men regarding child marriage and rights of women. We are also providing sessions for women and girls, to ensure they know their worth, feel safe in their community and understand their rights in relation to violence against women and child marriage.

  • Hundreds of thousands of innocent have been killed in the ongoing conflict, and cities have been left in ruins
  • The country experienced a devastating drought in 2019 which destroyed all the crops and 60% of the livestock in Western Afghanistan. The drought drove over 250,000 people from their homes to seek aid, but even the humanitarian camps they came to have run out of food by now. Many parents consider selling their daughters into early marriage to feed the family