My Name is Zarghuna
There was no happiness in my childhood.
When I was only six years old, my parents gave me away to my uncle’s family in marriage to appease a family feud.
My father brought me to my uncle, who put me on his back like I was a sack of rice and took me to his house. He showed me a knife and said: “If you escape from the house, this is your future. I will kill you with this knife.” I never saw my family again.
My uncle was very abusive. He never let me see anyone or talk to my neighbours. I was excluded from family celebrations, and often heard the neighbours gossiping about me. I grew ashamed of myself and often wondered “Why did all this happen to me? Why did they give me away to this family? Only to resolve a conflict?” These questions still remain.
When I was 15, it was time to consummate the marriage. We had a small celebration, but my family did not attend. I liked my husband. I grew up with him and he was always kind to me. I got pregnant shortly after my marriage, and I had a baby girl. My husband, then 18 years old, had to join the army. Soon after I received a message that he had been killed.
I felt I had no one to help me out, so I decided to commit suicide. I tried it twice and I failed twice. After this, I went to the hospital for my depression. The doctor told me, “You don’t need any medication. When you remember your past, it hurts you. So you need somewhere to go and sit with women, with different kinds of women, so you can see how they are dealing with their problems and how they are dealing with the challenges that they face.”
One of my friends told me about Women for Women International. When I joined, I found myself in a group of 25 women.
After I graduated I found a job in embroidery and handicraft. I was always thinking about how I could build my own business. Eventually I decided to take a micro-loan of $500. From there I started selling my embroidered products and my business grew quickly.
One day I know I will have a huge business in Afghanistan. I only wish to see peace in my country and expand my business more and more. For now, I am so happy that I am providing employment to 120 women, women who once suffered a lot. It’s not only women that I hire. I also have men as employees and helping us with the sales.
While this is a photo of a Women for Women International graduate, this photo is representative of the woman featured in the story, for privacy or security concerns.
Our work in Afghanistan
Decades of violence in Afghanistan have left millions of women and girls displaced or widowed. Common discriminatory practices, amplified by extremist groups, often make it dangerous for women to seek education, healthcare services, employment, or, in some cases, even to leave their homes.
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I was alone and had to take care of the children who were all very young at the time. I couldn’t imagine them growing without their father around. He was the one who provided for them.
Our neighbour knocked at the door and asked ‘Why are you not escaping?’ She told us that they are kidnapping girls and killing men, so we decided to run away and not take anything with us.
Joining the Women for Women International programme was the biggest change in my life. I found myself. I was convinced that I was alone, the only person who had experienced such difficulties.