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STANDING UP FOR AFGHAN WOMEN: The Afghan Women's Survival Fund

Posted on: Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Keywords: Afghanistan, Combating Violence Against Women, Profile, Human Rights Advocacy

Afghan women have been denied their human rights for decades—the right to education, to work, to health care, to political participation. More than 87 percent of Afghan women cannot read or write. Pervasive violence against women is now considered a “silent epidemic” with roots in the low status of women and fueled by ongoing warfare and political upheaval.

Following are stories of brutality ... and survival. Read how The Afghan Women’s Survival Fund and MADRE member support are saving women’s lives.


Shabana’s Story

In May 2009, a 17-year-old girl named Shabana turned up at Women for Afghan Women’s shelter in Kabul, which is supported by MADRE’s Afghan Women’s Survival Fund. She had narrowly escaped being killed by her husband.

Shabana’s father died when she was young, leaving her vulnerable to abuse. Two years ago, she was walking home from school when she was kidnapped by a young man from her village. He beat her and forced her into marriage. He kept her a prisoner and abused her repeatedly for the next seven months. One night, he choked her until she blacked out and almost died. She fled the next day.

Her family, including her mother and uncle, did nothing to intervene. To them, the kidnapping was a just settlement of a long-standing property dispute. The “property” was Shabana’s sister-in-law, who had escaped from an abusive arranged marriage to the kidnapper’s cousin over 20 years ago.

When Shabana first arrived at the MADRE-supported safe shelter, she had nothing: no job, no access to school, no money, and no family support. Despite this, she was a strong and determined young woman. With the help of attorneys supported by The Afghan Women’s Survival Fund, she confronted her kidnapper in court and demanded a formal divorce.

Talking to reporters after the court hearing, just 26 days after her escape, Shabana said her head still ached from the beatings. “I am not a toy. I am human,” she said in a clear, strong voice. “I should not be treated like an animal.”

Her mother and uncle attended the hearing to urge her to return to her kidnapper, so that the stain on her family’s honor could be removed. She will always be on guard, fearing that her former husband and his family will retaliate. “I would rather die than go back,” said Shabana. “If I go back, he will kill me. I am sure of that.”

Shabana found a job as a caregiver at the Women for Afghan Women Children’s Support Center, where she earns enough money to live with dignity. She is taking accelerated classes to finish high school, and studying English and Computer Science to improve her job prospects when she graduates. The women at Women for Afghan Women have become her supportive, new family.

Shabana dreams of becoming a lawyer so she can help other Afghan women who face violence.


BY DONATING TO The Afghan Women’s Survival Fund TODAY, you are providing a way for women like Shabana to escape brutality and to rebuild their lives. Please be generous.


Wahida’s Story

At 13, Wahida was sold into marriage to a 45-year-old man. He beat her and sold their two-month-old son to a family in Pakistan. After 16 years, she was accused of infidelity. Even with no evidence, she was sentenced to ten years in prison. Her three children went to prison with her.

Eventually, Wahida received a pardon with the help of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and is now living with her children at a safe shelter. MADRE and our sister organization, Women for Afghan Women (WAW), have opened the first home for children of incarcerated women, where they can be cared for and educated.


Zarbobo’s Story

Zarbobo lived in a village outside of Kabul. For over 14 years, she was beaten and tortured by her husband. She had four children. One he threw into a fire pit and another he left to die from an illness. Then he killed his brother and married his sister-in-law. After that, Zarbobo was locked up in a tiny room with a piece of bread to eat each day. She escaped, barefoot and half naked, and found her way to our safe shelter.

Our Afghan sisters at WAW are doing all they can to keep Zarbobo safe, rescue her two remaining children and bring her husband to justice. At the shelter, Zarbobo wept because for the first time in her life, she had enough to eat.


Bebe’s Story

When Bebe was 12, she was forced to marry a local Talib. Bebe was treated like a slave, regularly beaten and forced to sleep with animals. Bebe tried to escape at age 17 but was captured and brought back to her husband. Days later, in August 2009, Bebe’s husband cut off most of her nose and both of her ears while his brother held her down as punishment for running away.

Left for dead, she dragged herself to her uncle’s house, but he refused to help. Finally, she made it to her father, who took her to a hospital. After recuperating for several months, she found a safe haven at one of the MADRE-supported safe shelters.

 

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