When Afghan-born Sonita Alizadeh was 14 years old, she was told that she would soon be sent back to Afghanistan from Iran to be married. Her parents needed the money that her marriage would bring to pay for her older brother’s wedding. Sonita was devastated.
Sonita had developed a passion for rap music and was working with an Iranian music director at the time. She planned to pursue a career in music, but the future she had imagined for herself was now under serious threat. Back in Afghanistan, as a married woman, Sonita would have been expected to put her education and career aside to tend to her husband’s needs and have children.
Sonita made a passionate plea to her parents using the medium she felt most comfortable with: music. In the music video for Brides for Sale, Sonita appears dressed as a bride with a barcode stamped on her head as she sings of “selling girls”. The video is a powerful reminder of the pressure that child brides feel to please their parents and follow tradition.
The video convinced her parents not to go ahead with her marriage. The video also attracted global interest and Sonita was offered a full scholarship by an arts academy in Utah.
Now aged 18, Sonita is still getting her education and continuing to make music about the plight of girls and women in Afghanistan.
During an interview on Public Radio International’s The World, Sonita remarked, “I sometimes think about the fact that I could have been a mother right now with a few kids. It’s not a thought I like.”
Every year, approximately 15 million girls are married before they reach the age of 18. Marrying young often disrupts a girl’s education and prevents her from having a career. Early marriage also means that a girl is more likely to get pregnant for the first time at a young age and have more children than she would have if she had been allowed to marry when she was older. Finally, marrying young presents a significant health risk — pregnancy is the most common cause of death for girls aged 15 to 19.