This post first appeared on the BHS Responsible Citizenship Challenge Blog
Happy International Women’s Day! Today’s challenge was to research a female social of political activist for a cause you believe in and share what you learn. I participated gladly in this challenge, as I am always ready to read about a fellow feminist warrior. The woman I chose to research is Sonita Alizadeh. I had never heard of her before this challenge, but now that I know who she is, I think everyone should. Alizadeh is an Afghan rapper and activist who has courageously spoken out against child marriage after almost being forced into marriage at an extremely young age not once, but twice, by her parents.
Alizadeh grew up in Herat, Afghanistan, under the rule of the Taliban. Her family first considered selling her as a bride when she was 10, however, her family fled to Iran to escape the Taliban before the marriage. In Iran, Alizadeh worked cleaning bathrooms, and she simultaneously taught herself to read and write. She also discovered the music of Iranian rapper Yas and American rapper Eminem while there. Their music gave her inspiration, and she began writing her own songs. Soon after this, at age 15, Alizadeh's mother attempted to make her return to Afghanistan because she had found a man to buy her for $9,000. Fortunately, Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami, director of the documentary Sonita, gave $2,000 to Sonita's mother in exchange for six months of time for Sonita, putting off the marriage. During these months Alizadeh wrote Daughters for Sale, and Maghami filmed a music video for her. It was not only popular with women in Afghanistan, but also got the attention of the nonprofit Strongheart Group, which then contacted to Alizadeh to bring her to the U.S. so she could live and study in safety.
One of the many remarkable things about Alizadeh is that she filmed and released her music video while she was living in Iran, where it is illegal for women to sing publicly. Her courage should not go unnoticed. The incredible bravery and spirit she showed got her out of a terrible and dangerous situation, and now she is able to speak out and help others facing the same situation. In Afghanistan, 57% of women are married before age 19, but Alizadeh’s work is attempting to fight this. Her videos are incredibly powerful and breathtaking. The link to one of her live performances in New York is below; I would highly recommend taking a few minutes to experience it. Alizadeh’s story is one we don’t learn about in school, but it’s time we start making ourselves aware of what is happening in the world around us.
For every awe-inspiring, empowered woman who makes the news, there are thousands of other women making change in this world who we never get to hear about. Sonita Alizadeh is one of those women, and her relentless bravery and passion have inspired me greatly. This challenge was an amazing way for me to learn about another exceptional woman who I probably never would have known about otherwise. So, for everyone reading this, keep researching! Keep learning, keep inspiring, keep resisting. The future is female, and we cannot be silenced.