Friday, May 3, 2013

The Problem With One Donor's Attempt to Save the 6-year-old Girl Profiled in the New York Times Last Week (The Atlantic)

In January, many of us activists in Afghanistan were enraged as we read in the BBC about a 6-year-old girl named Naghma who was going to be sold by her father to settle a family debt. Naghma's father had taken some 250,000 Rupees (around $2,500) from a relative a year back, and having suffered the insecurities of Helmand, they took refuge in one of the camps in Kabul. Now, he was prepared to give away his daughter to the other family in order to settle the debt.

Since I work on cases of violence against women and provide support to women at risk, I immediately contacted the Ministry of Interior to intervene against the proposed sale. According to the laws of Afghanistan, selling anyone for any purpose is illegal and, as per the 2009 Elimination of Violence against Women Law (considered a huge achievement here), the father, the tribal elders who held the trial-like jirga process, and the relative who agreed to the engagement would all be jailed for at least three to six years.

To find out a way to intervene and help Naghma, a group of activists gathered and debated whether to push for the arrest of the father, pay the debt, or try to cancel the elder's decision to marry off Naghma.

We assigned three women from our group to go and assess the situation in the camp. What we learned was very disheartening. The team came back confirming the miserable condition of the family, saying that the mother was seriously ill, Naghma's brother had frozen to death during the cold winter, and that apart from a few pieces of bread, the family hadn't eaten anything else during the two days of the visit. However, the more concerning finding was that there were a couple of motorcycles outside the tent that belonged to Naghma's brothers. The team asked why they didn't sell off their motorcycles to settle the debt, but Naghma's father, Taj Mohammad, refused to respond. For me, this set off alarm bells that we shouldn't pay the debt ourselves because Mohammad would simply try to resell her again, since he would know that there are people willing to pay off his debt.

Soon after that, I contacted a couple of emergency aid groups and asked them to help the family with their basic needs. One of the local charity foundations went to the camp and provided the family with blankets, some food, and utensils.

I kept pushing for legal action because I realized that the father had at least one more option before selling off Naghma - he could've sold those motorbikes to settle the debt, or at the very least asked for support from the charity organizations that are active in his camp. That's in addition to the fact that the tribal elders are equally complicit in this trade and should be taught a lesson that, at least in Kabul, where there are law enforcement agencies and we shouldn't allow such a public precedent of selling girls.

During this whole time, I tried and failed to get the Ministry of Interior's attention to the issue. I was eventually promised by a friend who works at the Ministry that they would intervene. We assumed that the Ministry of Interior will take care of the issue because it was made public by the BBC report.

A few months later, I was shocked when I was told that a New York Timesjournalist was interviewing the family. I again stressed the point that we should not pay the debt because this would become a trend that not only Mohammed, but others in the camp, would repeat.

Right after the Times interview, I sent my colleagues to find out what happened to Naghma and went to talk to the Kabul Police Chief myself. At the station, we found out that the debt had been paid in early February 2013, based on a letter that was signed by a couple of witnesses, the man to whom Naghma's father was indebted, and the anonymous donor who paid the debt.

I submitted a complaint to the police to follow up on the case. Based on my complaint, the police went to find Mohammad, and then they called theTimes and told them that the debt had already been paid. If it had not been for the police intervention after our complaint, Mohammad would never have informed the Times that he had received the payment.

I asked the police to summon the father to the station and to ask him why, if the debt was paid a month ago, he was telling the Times he was threatening to sell his daughter, but the police found out he'd already fled to Uruzgan. However, he promised the police by phone that he won't try to sell off Naghma again. The police summoned Naghma's brothers and warned them in front of me that they would all be put in jail if they harm Naghma anymore.

I also spoke to Mohammad, who said the amount of the debt was more than what he received, but that he has cancelled the engagement anyway.

Once again, I assigned a couple of other colleagues to find out from the neighbors and the camp what everyone is saying about the situation. It's clear that Naghma is not necessarily safe yet. The neighbors confirmed that Mohammad now knows the way to make money is off of threatening to sell his daughter, and almost everyone we talked to agreed that once elders come together to decide a marriage, it won't be called off unless there is strict oversight by the government and police.

We could have paid the debt right after we read the story on the BBC in January, but the whole purpose was to ensure that the father and the tribal elders were held to account. Cases like this happen every day in Afghanistan, but when a story becomes public and then there is no intervention to stop it, it sets a precedent that anyone can sell off their daughters without being held accountable. But unfortunately, the person who paid this debt was either not aware of this sensitivity or didn't feel the need to consult with the women's groups in the area.

Tying the fate of Naghma to money is not only dangerous to her, but to her sisters and every other girl in this camp. The harm is already done, and I am very concerned that if there is no oversight, the father might send Naghma to Helmand in a year or so to marry the man after all.

This whole situation also reflects the fact that the concept of "first, do no harm" is often violated by donors in Afghanistan who are after quick fixes that have big consequences for the women and girls of this country. In this case, the donor has super-ceded the law and decided the fate of Naghma, ignoring the fact that she has not saved Naghma, but has put a price on her head.


6 comments:

  1. Great article, well done thank the world you are so determined and clever!

    ReplyDelete
  2. http://itsmefumingrightsinit.blogspot.co.uk/2012_01_01_archive.html Here is an article written after hearing you speak on a panel in Oslo.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Do you need a quick long or short term loan with a relatively low interest rate as low as 3%? We offer business loan, personal loan, home loan, auto loan,student loan, debt consolidation loan e.t.c. no matter your credit score. We are guaranteed in giving out financial services to our numerous clients all over world. With our flexible lending packages, loans can be processed and transferred to the borrower within the shortest time possible, contact our specialist for advice and finance planning. If you need a quick loan contact us via Email:mohamendloanservice@gmail.com

    Please, do provide us with the Following information if interested.
    1) Full Name:.........
    2) Gender:.........
    3) Loan Amount Needed:.........
    4) Loan Duration:.........
    5) Country:.........
    6) Home Address:.........
    7) Mobile Number:.........
    8)Monthly Income:.....................
    9)Occupation:...........................
    )Which site did you here about us.....................
    Thanks and Best Regards.
    mohamendloanservice@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. nice article...

    I am very happy to meet with this blog, because writing discussed very beneficial to us all, and Obat Bius
    very grateful for the enlightenment.

    selling drugs or sleeping pills
    liquid, powder, breathe, spray, capsule. Jual Obat Bius


    Obat Bius Wanita
    dope woman who is difficult to be invited to have sex

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hello Everybody,
    My name is Mrs.Irene Query. I live in Philippines and i am a happy woman today? and i told my self that any lender that rescue my family from our poor situation, i will refer any person that is looking for loan to him, he gave me happiness to me and my family, i was in need of a loan of $150,000.00 to start my life all over as i am a single mother with 2 kids I met this honest and GOD fearing man loan lender that help me with a loan of$150,000.00 US. Dollar, he is a GOD fearing man, if you are in need of loan and you will pay back the loan please contact him tell him that is Mrs.Irene Query, that refer you to him. contact Dr Purva Pius,via email:(urgentloan22@gmail.com) Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hello Everybody,
    My name is Mrs Sharon Sim. I live in Singapore and i am a happy woman today? and i told my self that any lender that rescue my family from our poor situation, i will refer any person that is looking for loan to him, he gave me happiness to me and my family, i was in need of a loan of S$250,000.00 to start my life all over as i am a single mother with 3 kids I met this honest and GOD fearing man loan lender that help me with a loan of S$250,000.00 SG. Dollar, he is a GOD fearing man, if you are in need of loan and you will pay back the loan please contact him tell him that is Mrs Sharon, that refer you to him. contact Dr Purva Pius,via email:(urgentloan22@gmail.com) Thank you.

    BORROWERS APPLICATION DETAILS


    1. Name Of Applicant in Full:……..
    2. Telephone Numbers:……….
    3. Address and Location:…….
    4. Amount in request………..
    5. Repayment Period:………..
    6. Purpose Of Loan………….
    7. country…………………
    8. phone…………………..
    9. occupation………………
    10.age/sex…………………
    11.Monthly Income…………..
    12.Email……………..

    Regards.
    Managements
    Email Kindly Contact: urgentloan22@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete