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Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Hunger is skyrocketing in Afghanistan and children are suffering. Many families make hard decisions to sell their daughters into forced marriage as early as 6 years old. This practice has skyrocketed since schools were closed with no prospect of daughters bringing in money and helping support their families any other way. (Source: Washington Post In the new Afghanistan, it’s sell your daughter or starve)

Across Afghanistan, child marriages have skyrocketed, and not only because of economic collapse. Families once hoped that their daughters, when educated, might find good work and contribute to the family income. Today, under the Taliban’s ever-increasing restrictions, school is prohibited for girls after the sixth grade, and work options for women are few. Sequestered at home, a girl becomes just another mouth to feed. But as a bride, she’s a valuable commodity. A $2,000 bride price is enough to feed a family for a year. For the girls, of course, this is a nightmare. 

Stephanie Sinclair, Founder – Too Young to Wed

A child bride is sold for around $2,000. They are subjected to abuses most of us dare not imagine. And it is preventable.

Girls and women who participate in underground schools come away with the skills and determination to start home businesses, freelance, and teach their own schools, bringing income without being sold. These programs are a gateway to freedom for so many.

In December, CNN reported that suicides and depression are rising in Afghanistan among girls and women. Women’s Empowerment courses in Sahar programs tackle the stigma and hardship of depression and give girls support and hope where many are without.

Experts say reliable statistics on suicide and suicide attempts aren’t compiled in Afghanistan, but rights groups and doctors say they’ve seen an increase under Taliban rule.

Dr. Shikib Ahmadi has been working six days a week and longer hours than ever, seeing patients at a mental health clinic in Afghanistan’s western Herat province. He’s using a pseudonym because he fears the Taliban will punish him for speaking to foreign media.

Ahmadi said the number of female patients at his clinic has surged 40% to 50% since the Taliban’s takeover two years ago. Around 10% of those patients kill themselves, he said.

Oppressed by the Taliban, she swallowed acid. Now her siblings are trying to save her life, CNN

Early marriage prevention has long been a topic of Sahar programs and we continue to tackle this sensitive topic in our underground courses, including the Men as Partners in Change program. Educating men and women on the dangers of early marriage is an important step in prevention.

In many countries, marriage before the age of 18 is a reality for girls due to the interaction of several factors that place a girl at risk, including poverty, social norms, customary or religious laws that condone the practice, an inadequate legislative framework and the state of a country’s civil registration system. Child marriage often compromises a girl’s development by resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupting her schooling, and limiting her opportunities for career and vocational advancement. It also often involves a substantial age difference between the girl and her partner, thus further disempowering her and putting her at greater risk of partner violence, sexually transmitted diseases and lack of agency.

The Afghanistan MICS 2022-23

Forced and child marriage is human trafficking and it’s becoming more common in Afghanistan due, in part, to strict bans on secondary education and restrictions on employment for women and girls. Underground schools give an avenue to these families, a route to take that doesn’t involve selling their daughters to the highest bidder.

This January, take a stand against human trafficking.

Sponsor a girl in underground schools or sponsor a woman who wants to support her family, we can’t change lives without you.

You can change the life of a girl and her community.

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