My name is Zarmena and I am 30 years of age. I have never been to school. In our village girls get married when they are 13 or 14 years old. When I was 14 years old, I was wed in an arranged marriage with an old man of 60 years old. I was his 3rd woman and he had already a couple of children. When I was 15 years old I got my first baby. The other women were jealous and slandered about me to our husband. He was not a very smart man and believed them. He took some branches and hit me. When the branches broke, he just took new ones and continued. I always had many bruises. But still I was obedient. He was the wish of my parents, so I had no choice.

"When I was 14 years old, I was wed in an arranged marriage with an old man of 60 years old."

My life continued like this. After every 1,5 years I got a baby. I had no idea how I could prevent to get pregnant. Because of the bad conditions in our village, we left on a day to Kabul with 5 children. The road was very bad and it was extremely hot. We had to walk for a long time in the mountains. One night my husband got strong pains in his chest and before it became the morning, he was dead.

Together with the other women and our young children we continued life. My parents had moved but I had no idea where. After a couple of months my stepson sent me away. They had their own problems. Eventually we arrived in Kabul. We lived there for a couple of months with someone where I had to fight for myself. Eventually I could start my job at the Sir Asia school as a cleaning lady. But my salary is not high enough for rent, food and all the other things a family needs.

I really want my children to go to school. I do not want my daughters’ lives to be as difficult as mine. My children go to school now. My oldest son, 15 years old, Habeb Hulah, is in 9th grade, Muneb Hulah, 13 years, is in 7th grade, my daughter Marjam of 12 is in 6th grade, Mizghan is 10 years old and in grade 4 and Nejeb of 8 is in 2nd grade. I hope that my children will have a bright future and can become someone they themselves and their country can be proud of. That they will be happy and that they will make other people happy.

Unfortunately my salary is too low to raise 5 children. After school my oldest son sells plastic bags to earn some money, and even then we do not have enough. My salary of 1500 Afghaani (+/- 19 euros) is the same amount we pay for rent. My daughters cry every morning before they go to school, because they do not have any school supplies. I hope that friendly Dutch people will be able to help us and will give my children the opportunity to go to school.

Thank you in advance,

Zarmena

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