Two years back, I was in a province in the southeast of Afghanistan where I met a number of women to discuss their lives and problems. All along my conversation with them I realised out how their rights are being massacred under the shadow of men's ignorance. During my visit, I also had a chance to meet an old woman who introduced me to her daughter-in-law. A child of 8 or 9 years stood in front of me and her name was Malalai*. I asked the old woman who is she? The old woman confirmed it was her daughter-in-law. I found a thin, depressed child dressed as a newly wedded bride. Her innocent but sad image still floats in front of my eyes. In some parts of Afghanistan newly wed women wear bridal clothes for a longer time after their marriage.
Controlling my heartfealt sorrow for Malalai I requested to talk to her in private. Curiously when I asked her: "Do you know you are married?" She said, "I was sold at R.s 5 Lacs to a 40-year-old man as his third wife by my father who is a preacher of the village." It was shocking to hear such words from a child. She then continued and told me that the man she is married to is of the same age as her father and when she doesnt listen to her husband, she gets beaten. Her mother-in law and other two wives also torture her claiming that if she would have been a good girl her father wouldn't have sold her. After listening to that little timid girl, I felt a deep pain in my heart and couldn't stop my tears flowing down my face. Only one thought floated through my head what was her fault? her father sold her because she is a girl and used her to save himself from poverty.
We people call ourselves human and many of us are proud to be Muslims, but please bring me a verse of our sacred and holy book, which recommends selling of 8 years daughter to avoid starvation of the family.
Malalai added by saying "I ask all the parents, if you can't feed your children, why do you bring them to this world and make them suffer without sin? I wish my parents had killed me after I was born rather than giving me such disgraceful life".
Further her words were "Please do something for us, for poor children, and save the innocent souls from such oppression. Please educate future fathers, to provide equal opportunities to their children as God has not discriminated between sons and daughters. Our religion commands believers to feed, educate and care for their children until they are adults. Please provide job opportunities to our mothers so that they can be among income earners at home and gain the right to make decisions. I also want to tell religious preachers and guides to please learn and understand for yourselves what religion says and then teach others. "
I was taken aback after listening to that child. I know it is hard to believe that a girl of that age can say such things but this is not fiction but a true story of an Afghan girl who had paid high price for being a girl.
I hereby convey her message to you all. I request everyone to support me in this cause. It is our responsibility to work together for the betterment of our children without discriminating between a girls and boys. The much talked about gender equality should be realized in each and every household so that none of the girls have to pay the price that girls of Afghanistan are paying.
* a given name by the writer