Escaping a forced engagement: Farida's story

28 November 2012

by Farida

An Afghan girl tells Womankind Worldwide how she took stood up for her rights

Like many other Afghan girls, Farida was forced into a betrothal at a very young age.  The man she was engaged to threatened and beat her.  But she fought for her independence, and for her right to go to school.  Farida told Womankind Worldwide how she regained control of her life.  This is what she had to say:

“When I was 11 the 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.”

Farida is just one of the women and girls that Womankind’s partner Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan (HAWCA) sees every day.  Women whose lives have been destroyed or are on hold due to forced marriages, violence and a lack of knowledge about their rights.

At the legal advice centres women can:

  • Attend literacy or human rights classes
  • Speak to a lawyer to resolve their situation
  • Be referred to a safe house if they need to escape violence
  • Find a place at a school or a job opportunity

HAWCA is also changing attitudes by:

  • Speaking to community leaders about reducing violence against women
  • Training teachers to spot and help girls who are experiencing violence
  • Training the next generation of lawyers and judges to uphold women’s rights
  • Using research and evidence to help change legislation of women’s rights


Give another girl the chance to take control of her life by making a donation today

£25 can pay for a psychologist to work with a teacher and support ten girls who are at risk of violence

£50 can pay for legal advice and support for a woman or girl who has experienced violence

£250 can pay for a project worker to speak to 50 women at a village gathering about violence so they know about their rights

Help another girl like Farida live free from violence by donating today.  Or, if you make a donation online on 6, 7 or 8 December your gift will be matched by the Big Give at no extra cost to you.

Take action to support Afghan women

Please take a moment to call on the UK to do all it can to protect the Afghan women standing up for human rights.  Support the No Women No Peace campaign by taking action now.