I have been advising other girls I meet to defend their rights like I have done

Farida is just one of the girls that our partner Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan (HAWCA) sees every day.

HAWCA supports women in Afghanistan “When I was 11 a man’s family asked my parents to get us married but my family said I was too young. After a few months he married another girl. But in my society only the man can break the engagement contract. Otherwise I belong to him and he can do what he likes with me as I am still considered his wife.

“A year later he started threatening me on the way to school and said if I go to school he will kill me and cut me into pieces. In the beginning I didn’t tell anyone but he started to beat me. I told my parents who spoke to his family but nothing changed so I left school when I was just 12. I thought if he kills me, my parents will need to take revenge and then both families will suffer because of me.

“For fear of this man, I stayed at home for three years doing nothing and wondering how I could return to school. Then one day, when I was 15, I was at the market with my mother and I saw an advertisement for a women’s support centre that was running courses. I tried to convince my parents to let me attend but they worried that the man would threaten me again. I didn’t give up and finally convinced them to enrol me on the human rights course.

“I learned a lot about my rights and forced marriage on the course and I saw women coming to the centre for legal support. After a few weeks I decided to tell the lawyer about my problem and my mother came with me.

“The lawyer worked on my case and visited the man’s family. At first he didn’t want to break the engagement contract but the lawyer told him the court would favour me because I was underage. The day when the court announced that now I am free I was so happy and my family became free as well. My lawyer and the centre helped me return to school and I have been advising other girls I meet to defend their rights like I have done.”

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