Salma's story was kindly shared by our member Blue Veins.
Salma is 14 years old and lives in a rural village in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, Pakistan. With six older sisters and two older brothers, Salma is the youngest of a very big family. Her family lives below the poverty line. Her father, a domestic electrician, is her family’s only source of income.
As the youngest of 9 children, Salma enjoyed a very special place in the eyes of her parents. She was very passionate about education and dreamed of becoming a teacher and opening her own school. Her teachers were her role models and she lived and breathed the power that came with knowledge.
In 2010, disastrous flooding across Pakistan brought Salma’s life to a grinding halt. Like many others in the region, Salma’s family was forced to abandon their home and seek refuge in a camp for internally displaced people (IDP).
Despite all the challenges of living in the camp, Salma’s intrinsic passion for education motivated rise above these challenges, and she was eventually able to resume her studies in the school in the temporary shelter. Although it paled in comparison to her former village school, it was the only choice she had, and Salma liked to think of it as a ray of hope.
After spending almost a year in IDP shelter, Salma’s family returned to their village only to find that the flood had destroyed almost everything. Salma saw past the destruction and instead was excited to think that she would go back to school, starting her on the path to make her dreams a reality.
In her childhood innocence, Salma was oblivious to the financial turmoil her family was now experiencing. In a world of her own, Salma was unaware that soon all her dreams would be shattered. Because the houses were uninhabitable, most people took shelter in tents, and Salma’s family was no different. The villagers also arranged a temporary school in a tent while they began reconstructing the school. Salma was one of the first students to join the temporary school and eagerly awaited for the new school to be finished so she could learn in a nicer environment.
But one day some women came to Salma’s home. They gave her money and clothing and said “you are now my daughter.” As she began to realise what was happening, her sisters advised her to stay silent. Salma was so shocked that she could barely speak anyway. At 14 years old, Salma’s father and brothers had decided to marry her off and she was not given any say in the matter. She wasn’t even aware that she was being married until the women expressly mentioned it and embraced her while showering her with bridal gifts.
For Salma, marriage at 14 meant that her childhood and education were curtailed. All her dreams were shattered at once, as she became a victim of child marriage. Bitter and angry, Salma said helplessly that she wishes and prays that no girl will suffer like she has suffered.
Now a mother of a boy “Hassan”, Salma maintains that she would never want to give birth to girl because she doesn’t want any girl to suffer a fate like hers.
Read more about Blue Veins' work to support girls and women in Pakistan:
In the time it has taken to read this article 35 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 3 seconds