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Afghan Women: Shabnam’s story

Written by Rowan Wilkinson, a volunteer at the ACAA


Warning that this following story contains content that some could find upsetting.


The ACCA has been collecting a range of women’s personal stories from Afghanistan. This is Shabnam’s and how the work of the ACAA brought her to greater freedom and hope:


Struggles in Kabul, Afghanistan

Shabnam (not her real name) was engaged from birth, an immoral cultural tradition with no one religious affiliation. Child marriage is also “an appalling violation of human rights and robs girls of their education, health and long-term prospects,” says Babatunde Osotimehin, M.D, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund. This nuptial promise led to her to be forced by her fiancé’s family to stay in Afghanistan and honour the marriage when her family left the country to seek a new life in Iran. She was married and gave birth to twins at the young age of 13. When the lifetime risk of maternal death is 1 in 32 in Afghanistan compared to just 1 in 4600 in the UK, the pregnancy and her age, as well as her distance from her family would have been a serious risk and daunting time for Shabnam.


Since her child marriage, Shabnam has been beaten and tortured by her in-laws. The UN states under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984) that under no exceptional circumstances whatsoever may torture be justified. The ACAA strongly stands behind this and consequently, she felt able to approach the Citizens Advice Centre in Kabul to ask for help. This move provided a ray of hope for Shabnam and acknowledgement of the struggles she had been dealing with.


Advice and Support

Firstly, she was given medical advice and help for the injuries and health problems she sustained from physical abuse inflicted on her by her in-laws. She was also provided with legal advice from a solicitor and ultimately, she was given the tools and assistance to safely divorce her husband. The ACAA recognises the importance of mental health in improving the lives of women in Central Asia and Afghanistan so the final support Shabnam has been receiving, is family counselling and steps made towards her being reunited with her family in Iran.


The Wider Issue

Unfortunately, instances of child marriage and abuse still affect many women and girls in Afghanistan and neighbouring regions. More actions, prevention and support need to be provided for women and communities to stop these actions and the perpetrators who inflict them. In the UK we must count ourselves lucky that these malicious actions are far less frequent and that there are many support networks in place if problems occur. We wish Shabnam a new and happy start and are so grateful that she utilised the help of the Citizens Advice Centre.

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