The Face Behind the Veil

The Face Behind the Veil


This is the story of *Palwasha – a young Afghan lady who was repeatedly exchanged for marriage. Born into a poor family, life was rough for little Palwasha who was always hidden in the shadows of her brother, the valued child in the family.

In a culture where women were second class citizens, Palwasha’s happiness and future meant nothing compared to her brother’s.

She was not allowed to go to school and deprived of many rights including the choice of whom to marry. Her brother’s desire to get married coupled with her family’s inability to afford the bride price dowry led to Palwasha being a victim of Badal, an Afghan tradition where girls are exchanged between two families for marriage.

Unfortunately, the exploitative practice did not end here. Palwasha was exchanged as a badal for the second time after her brother’s first marriage fell through. A seeming blessing in disguise, Palwasha’s second marriage with her faithful husband turned out to be a blissful one. Things were going well until her brother’s wife passed on two years later.

In spite of her successful marriage, Palwasha’s father betrayed her yet again. Ignoring her desires, Palwasha’s was given away yet again by her father in exchange for a bride for her widowed brother. Not only did this third marriage mark the end of a blissful marriage, it was the beginning of an abusive relationship. Palwasha was trapped in a cycle of physical and emotional abuse, with nowhere to turn to. She only mustered courage to flee at the brink of death. In Afghanistan, it is a grave dishonour for a woman to leave her marriage, regardless of the circumstances she faces.

"I am considered a dead person for breaking the culture and bringing shame to two families."

Palwasha never returned home. Thankfully, Palwasha found refuge at the protection centre of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, where she was referred to HAGAR and enrolled into our Empowering Women for Better Future (EWBF) project.

With the guidance and support of HAGAR’s staff, Palwasha was equipped with vocational skills and empowered to started a new life. As her hope began to arise, Palwasha was determined to hone her skills in tailoring. Palwasha has been flourishing since then – her skilfulness in tailoring has landed her a job as a vocational trainer and caregiver at a residential care home in Kabul.

“My past life motivates me to have a better future, and develop skills that will enable me survive on my own. I am happy that I was given the opportunity to set goals for my future. Because of the support I have received, I have become brave and courageous.”

Palwasha is one of many whose lives have been transformed because of the faithful support from caring donors. Turn their broken dreams into new beginnings by empowering a survivor today!

*HAGAR pursues the highest degree of care and protection for each of our clients. To protect the identity of our clients, names have been changed and pictures do not necessarily represent the individual profiled.