Sonita Alizadeh is a young Afghan woman who had the audacity to resist being married off at age 15. Alizadeh’s family was forced to move to Iran when she was eight years old. As an undocumented Afghan, she was not entitled to be educated in Iran, leaving her to work as a janitor at a charity that supported Afghan children in her situation.
For years, Sonita was pressured to marry by her family. Her mother hoped to raise $9,000 US in a Sonita marriage, so that she would have $7,000 for her own son’s wedding. Sonita’s protest video of her song ‘Brides for Sale’ shown here, shows a bruised 15-year-old girl pleading with her family not to be sold. Pleading with rap lyrics saying ‘I am seen as a sheep grown only to be devoured,’ Sonita got attention. In early 2014 Sonita won the ‘best female’ prize in Argus Productions’ election anthem song context, rapping encouragement to Afghans to vote.
When Kabul-based WLUML networker Noorjahan Akbar sent her colleague Elie Calhoun, based in Indonesia, a link to Sonita’s music video, ‘Brides for Sale’ she had no idea that it was the first step to Sonita gaining a scholarship to a college preparatory school, the Wasatch Academy, with an amazing music program, in Utah in the US. Elie Calhoun shared the video on Facebook. Elie’s US based colleague Cori Stern saw the music video on Facebook. Stern then googled Sonita’s name and found the trailer for the documentary Sonita is a travelling swallow by Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami. via
I found out about Sonita on FB today.
Cori Stern co-founded the US-based Strongheart Group, dedicated to amplifying the voice and message of exceptional young people who are destined to be change makers. Stern reached out to the headmaster Joseph Loftin at Wasatch Academy in Utah. Headmaster Joseph Loftin at Wasatch interviewed Sonita by Skype and then offered her a scholarship to attend the school, with the support of Strongheart philanthropist Maurie Michaels.
This is an amazing story of a determined young woman destined to become a change agent for young women worldwide. One third of the girls in the developing world are married before the age of 18, and 1 in 9 are married before the age of 15.
In 2011 National Geographic did an in-depth piece written by Cynthia Gorney and photographed by Stephanie Sinclair called Too Young to Wed.~ Anne