Zardozi’s client Eqlima teaches tailoring in one of our Community Business Centers (Manbeh) in Herat. Eqlima saved her 14-year-old student Wazhma from marrying a man three times her age. Wazhma, unfortunately, was forced to pay for her brother’s crime until her instructor interfered and the unfair agreement between the two families was broken. Eqlima narrates the story as such:
Like every other day, students came to my house to learn about new models as part of their tailoring lessons, but Wazhma, who happens to be my neighbor, caught much of my attention those days. She seemed distracted and upset and didn’t pay any attention to the lessons.
Soon after the class ended, I asked Wazhma to stay for a cup of tea and a little chit-chat. In order to get Wazhma to open up about her problem and talk freely with me, I asked about her family and how she was doing.
Within some minutes of chatting, when Wazhma no longer could hide her pain, she burst into tears and sobbed that her grandfather is giving her in marriage to an older man who has kids and is the age of her deceased father.
After asking about the reasons behind the forced marriage, I learned that her brother had accidentally killed one of his friends during playful wrestling. Therefore, the friend’s family asked for a girl in marriage so that Wazhma’s family would have paid for the price of the bloodshed.
Wazhma’s condition was heart-wrenching so I decided to speak up for her. Together with Wazhma we went to their house and spoke to her grandmother first. After a little while, her grandfather noticed that I was stopping them from the marriage. He asked me to leave his house and not to interfere in other people’s family affairs. He was convinced that his grandchild would be happy with this rich family and at the same time, she would have spared her brother’s life.
At night, I thought about all the possible ways to persuade Wazhma’s grandparents and went to their house again in the morning. Advising them did not work until I told them that we will write a complaint to the Women’s Affairs Department. Meanwhile, Wazhma also started crying and said she will burn herself if she is forced to get married. Enraged by the talk, the grandfather took me out of their house and said, “Your life will be in danger if the deceased boy’s family learns that you are manipulating Wazhma and stopping the marriage.”
At that moment, I was scared and thought about my own kids’ safety. For a few days, I would take my daughter and son to school myself, afraid that something may happen to them. However, I could also not stop myself from helping the helpless girl who needed me more than anyone at that time. “Wazhma will commit suicide,” I thought to myself. The next day, I bravely went back to their home and told them that we will either solve this inside these four walls or else we will have to go to the police and courts. Whoever is responsible for the death of the boy should bear the punishment, and Wazhma is completely innocent.
Wazhma’s family realized that I was not backing down, so they decided to talk to the boy’s family and tell them that their daughter does not want to marry the man, but if they still insist going to the court will be the last option.
Luckily, after talking to the other family, it was decided that a substantial amount of money should be paid to them to compensate for the death of their son.
“Where is Wazhma now?”
Wazhma passed the legal age to get married and is now engaged to a better person who allows her to get her education and then settle in Iran.
When the time comes, women have taken the cruelest decisions- ending their lives to put end to their suffering. Women everywhere are paying the price for their men’s debts and crimes but their weakness, innocence, and silence is what enables some men to be oppressive.
In the middle of these entire grievances, Zardozi is proud and delighted that it has given its clients the voice to stand for other women and put an end to violence.