The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Diana Duarte, Media Coordinator,Phone: +1 212 627 0444,Email:,

Standing Up for Afghan Women: The Afghan Women's Survival Fund


Afghan women have been denied their human rights for decades-the
right to education, to work, to health care, to political
participation. More than 87 percent of Afghan women cannot read or
write. Pervasive violence against women is now considered a "silent
epidemic" with roots in the low status of women and fueled by ongoing
warfare and political upheaval.

Following are stories of
brutality ... and survival. Read how The Afghan Women's Survival Fund
and MADRE member support are saving women's lives.

Shabana's Story

May 2009, a 17-year-old girl named Shabana turned up at Women for
Afghan Women's shelter in Kabul, which is supported by MADRE's Afghan
Women's Survival Fund. She had narrowly escaped being killed by her

Shabana's father died when she was young, leaving her
vulnerable to abuse. Two years ago, she was walking home from school
when she was kidnapped by a young man from her village. He beat her and
forced her into marriage. He kept her a prisoner and abused her
repeatedly for the next seven months. One night, he choked her until
she blacked out and almost died. She fled the next day.

family, including her mother and uncle, did nothing to intervene. To
them, the kidnapping was a just settlement of a long-standing property
dispute. The "property" was Shabana's sister-in-law, who had escaped
from an abusive arranged marriage to the kidnapper's cousin over 20
years ago.

When Shabana first arrived at the MADRE-supported
safe shelter, she had nothing: no job, no access to school, no money,
and no family support. Despite this, she was a strong and determined
young woman. With the help of attorneys supported by The Afghan Women's
Survival Fund, she confronted her kidnapper in court and demanded a
formal divorce.

Talking to reporters after the court hearing,
just 26 days after her escape, Shabana said her head still ached from
the beatings. "I am not a toy. I am human," she said in a clear, strong
voice. "I should not be treated like an animal."

Her mother and
uncle attended the hearing to urge her to return to her kidnapper, so
that the stain on her family's honor could be removed. She will always
be on guard, fearing that her former husband and his family will
retaliate. "I would rather die than go back," said Shabana. "If I go
back, he will kill me. I am sure of that."

Shabana found a job
as a caregiver at the Women for Afghan Women Children's Support Center,
where she earns enough money to live with dignity. She is taking
accelerated classes to finish high school, and studying English and
Computer Science to improve her job prospects when she graduates. The
women at Women for Afghan Women have become her supportive, new family.

Shabana dreams of becoming a lawyer so she can help other Afghan women who face violence.

BY DONATING TO The Afghan Women's Survival Fund TODAY, you are providing a way for women like Shabana to escape brutality and to rebuild their lives. Please be generous.

Wahida's Story

13, Wahida was sold into marriage to a 45-year-old man. He beat her and
sold their two-month-old son to a family in Pakistan. After 16 years,
she was accused of infidelity. Even with no evidence, she was sentenced
to ten years in prison. Her three children went to prison with her.

Wahida received a pardon with the help of the Ministry of Women's
Affairs, and is now living with her children at a safe shelter. MADRE
and our sister organization, Women for Afghan Women (WAW), have opened
the first home for children of incarcerated women, where they can be
cared for and educated.

Zarbobo's Story

lived in a village outside of Kabul. For over 14 years, she was beaten
and tortured by her husband. She had four children. One he threw into a
fire pit and another he left to die from an illness. Then he killed his
brother and married his sister-in-law. After that, Zarbobo was locked
up in a tiny room with a piece of bread to eat each day. She escaped,
barefoot and half naked, and found her way to our safe shelter.

Afghan sisters at WAW are doing all they can to keep Zarbobo safe,
rescue her two remaining children and bring her husband to justice. At
the shelter, Zarbobo wept because for the first time in her life, she
had enough to eat.

Bebe's Story

When Bebe was 12,
she was forced to marry a local Talib. Bebe was treated like a slave,
regularly beaten and forced to sleep with animals. Bebe tried to escape
at age 17 but was captured and brought back to her husband. Days later,
in August 2009, Bebe's husband cut off most of her nose and both of her
ears while his brother held her down as punishment for running away.

for dead, she dragged herself to her uncle's house, but he refused to
help. Finally, she made it to her father, who took her to a hospital.
After recuperating for several months, she found a safe haven at one of
the MADREsupported safe shelters.

MADRE is an international women's human rights organization that partners with community-based women's groups to advance women's human rights, challenge injustice and create social change in contexts of war, conflict, disaster and their aftermath. MADRE advocates for a world in which all people enjoy individual and collective human rights; natural resources are shared equitably and sustainably; women participate effectively in all aspects of society; and all people have a meaningful say in policies that affect their lives. For more information about MADRE, visit