Sonita is a Afghan activist and rapper campaigning to end child marriage. She was born in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. Like many children growing up in a country riddled with conflict, found that daily life was dangerous and her childhood challenging. At the age of 10 her family tried to sell her to a man who wanted to marry her. Eventually her family fled Afghanistan to Iran, walking hundreds of miles to do so. As a result Sonita grew up as an undocumented refugee. She worked to support her family, taking on cleaning jobs and selling crafts. Because of her undocumented status she couldn’t get an education but eventually found a local NGO that would help her learn basic educational skills.
Through this she came to realize that she had a passion and talent for writing and art. She expressed the hardships and injustices that she’d seen through this medium. After hearing an Iranian rapper on the radio she wrote her first rap about child labour. She realised she could never remain silent about the struggles herself and others faced. She began experimenting with beats and narratives. It was illegal for a girl to rap alone and dangerous to speak out but she continued to do so.
Over the next couple of years she began to see her female friends leave the classroom after they were forced to marry older men. At the age of 16, Sonita nearly met the same fate when she was told she had been sold into marriage so her family could pay the bridewealth for her brother’s future wife. In response she wrote a song entitled “Daughter for Sale”. With the help of a filmmaker recorded her story and made a music video. It was posted to YouTube where it quickly became viral. The video was seen by a nonprofit organization and with that she was relocated to the US and started formal education.
Sonita was safe from forced marriage and now able to go to school for the first time. But thoughts of her friends who hadn’t been so lucky plagued her. She knew the fight for her may be over but for others it was only the beginning. She continued to work with the charity that had helped her, Strongheart, becoming even more vocal, speaking out about the injustices of child marriage. Through her work as a human rights campaigner and as a Girls Not Brides ambassador she managed to spread her message around the world. Empowering other girls to speak up for themselves and encouraging others to joining the movement to end child marriage.