NGO helps Afghan girls who are forced into child marriages

Anila Ghani and her charity Aghan Women Help Initiative (AWHI) are leading a journey to help girls forced into child marriages by jihadis

Anila Ghani runs a small charity in Kabul. Few people in Afghanistan know it. Fewer still would know about the work that it is doing. However, AWHI helps to bring attention to the tens of thousands of girls who are forced into marriages with rich families or boys of their own age by jihadis.

Ghani is highly educated and has a degree in international law from Georgetown University in the US. She was born in Mogadishu and came to Afghanistan to study at Kabul University in 1999 and, as a student, she would often watch the Arab fighters on international news on television.

She had known that many Afghan girls in the countryside were kidnapped and forced into marriages but her sudden discovery that hundreds were being held prisoner in Kabul, first in the grounds of a UN compound, and then at the home of the national army, shocked her.

One day she went to the base to save a girl, but was turned away. One problem: there were not enough staff to protect her, so she called up the national security adviser.

Another problem was that, as well as trying to free the girls, she had to ensure that they were not in danger of being killed by the local Taliban. Ghani did not have the resources to bring security to all of these people, so AWHI was formed to work through an NGO called Mastura that had contacts in the Taliban. By 2009 the organisation provided services to 275 girls.

It started by raising awareness about female genital mutilation. The charity is working on a petition, which has so far almost 6,000 signatures, and the mission has received publicity from the US congressional delegation to Afghanistan and overseas to raise awareness, including an article in Time magazine.

More than 30% of young girls in Afghanistan become child brides. Many are Muslim girls brought in from the countryside as brides. Others are abducted and brainwashed to become brides of jihadists who have pledged to bring them back to their birthplace.

Although many girls are poor and illiterate, they are malnourished, malnourished because the Taliban do not let them get help from the country’s health department or rely on the treatment of the hospital in Kabul for health issues or are too terrified to seek medical attention.

The group provides the girls with all the support they need, including counselling, financial assistance, legal help and support from AWHI’s counselors, counsellors and support group members.

Many girls have ended up getting pregnant after being forcibly married and experiencing abuse in pregnancy, giving birth to an unwanted child.

There are many women who are very close to these girls, who understand their situation and are willing to go to the mosque or families and join the group in their prayers and fasting.

Since August 2011, two of the girls who were held in the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) base have been rescued and the girls are now with their families. After six months they are taken to Mastura to continue their treatment and schooling. However, they are under constant threat and the abuses continue.

AWHI offers other help and offers a life lesson for the Taliban and their beneficiaries and students. It teaches them how to live a peaceful and flourishing life.

The AWHI programme focuses on six key issues: marriage, children, education, religious reform, media and HIV/Aids.

AWHI brings families from all the communities under one roof where they are taught how to live a tolerant life and raise their children in a peaceful and peaceful society. This is a new model in Afghanistan.

Ghani, who is in her early 30s, says she is trying to create a new ethical generation for her country. It is working on creating national advocacy groups and runs public awareness campaigns. The group is also working on raising the money for each family to support their girls financially, and that way provide stability and security for girls.

She says that she fears violence will return and, if it does, she fears for the safety of the daughters of those girls.

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