Meet Sonita, the Afghan rapper ending child marriage one song at a time

When Sonita Alizadeh was 10, her parents tried to marry her off. They were unsuccessful, but when she became a teenager they tried again. What they didn’t know was that in the meantime Sonita had discovered her passion for rap music. After the second attempt by her mother a few years ago, she recorded a music video about child marriage that captured the world’s attention. Now a student at Wasatch Academy in the United States, she continues to advocate for ending child marriage. Here, in her own words, she talks about why daughters should not be for sale.

To the 28 girls who will be forced to marry in the next 60 seconds, please know that I am working to bring about big change. Please have hope.

When a young girl is forced to marry, she loses so many important things: she loses her childhood, her family and her hope. She can’t see or feel any support. She feels entirely alone.

I know this because that could have been me. And many of my friends became child brides.

Child brides are touched and forced to do things that they don’t want to do. This is a kind of abuse.

If I had gotten married, my whole life would be different. I am still a teenager, and I would have so many problems. I would probably have many children by now, and my whole life would be lived inside my home. I wouldn’t be able to think about my future. Also, when you’re forced to marry, you don’t have any good feelings about your husband. Child brides are touched and forced to do things that they don't want to do. This is a kind of abuse.  

Thankfully, I found a way out. Now I am free. I have the right to make my own decisions and build my own future. Right now, the three most important things in my life are school, my music and working to end child marriage. I hope that all of these things will continue far into my future.  

In many countries there are laws against child marriage. Laws are important, and countries need to make sure child marriage is not legal. But in many places nobody actually listens to the laws; they listen to tradition. They don’t like change, and they want to be like the generations before them.  

So we need to help people change their perceptions and understand new ways of living and new traditions. We have to get community leaders to speak out against child marriage, and we need families to make different decisions for their daughters.  

I work to do this through my music. I first wrote my music for my family, then for my people in Afghanistan. I wrote ‘Daughters for Sale’ for families because usually they don’t understand what girls’ feelings are inside. They don’t listen to girls.  

I wrote the song to let them know about our feelings, so they can hear what it is really like to be a girl. Then I made the music video of ‘Daughters for Sale’ for everyone around the world. In my music video, even if people can’t understand the words, they can understand the message through my clothes and my actions.

My mother didn't want me to be a singer. When she left Iran and went to Afghanistan I started making music and she didn’t know. Then I recorded my songs, and I asked my mom: “How can you sell your daughter?”

She heard me, and she realised how important it was for me to choose my own future.

Sometimes my mother has problems with our extended family. It’s very difficult for her because people think that she has done something very wrong, but she knows that I’m doing something good. She also knows that it isn’t just for me, but for many other girls all over the world. But, it’s still hard for her.

One of my friends has even left her husband and gone back to school. She needed to believe that it could be done.

My campaign has just begun. It starts with me sharing my story and music with as many people as possible to educate the world about child marriage. I want everyone to understand and care about this issue: both world leaders and everyday people.

Everyone is important. I hope that together we can create the biggest campaign in the world to end child marriage.  

I know that things can change. When I was in Iran last year, I tried to support my friends by telling them they could be strong and choose their future. They didn’t have any reason to believe me, really. But they see what I’m doing with my life, and now they believe me. One of my friends has even left her husband and gone back to school. She needed to believe that it could be done.

Girls need to have hope for their future, even if it is hard. If a girl loses hope, she’ll feel dead inside, and this is the worst thing.

Before people saw my music video, I wanted to change my country. Now I want to change the world. I will work hard to change reality for child brides and end child marriage. Join me on Twitter and use #SonitasDream and Facebook as we build our campaign.

A documentary film about Sonita’s life and journey will premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam on 20 November.