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Music

Sonita Alizadeh

The Afghan Rapper Protesting the Practice of Forced Marriage

Had tradition ruled in Sonita Alizadeh’s life, she might have been forced into marriage at just 10 years old. However, the Afghan rebelled when she was 16, by releasing a rap video titled “Brides for Sale” about the experience of women being sold into marriage by their families. It was a huge risk—for starters, female vocalists are not permitted to sing solo in front of a male audience or make records in Iran, where she was living at that time. But it paid off: The song went viral, and she was able to get a scholarship to finish her studies in the U.S. Today, Alizadeh is a high-school student and continues to perform her powerful brand of rap to inspire a new generation of women to rebel against the outdated and cruel tradition of child brides.

When did you realize what you wanted to do in your life?

“After coming to the U.S. for school, I realized I had to share my story with the world to raise awareness about child marriage and help create real change. I realized that I could be a powerful advocate for girls whose voices were not being heard. I have found a way to live my life by my values and do everything I dreamed of and care about: speak out on behalf of girls around the world to create change, make my music and art and go to school.”

What is your biggest accomplishment to date?

“My biggest accomplishment in life is my independence as a woman who has the right to choose. I was born into a life that was supposed to be very different, all decided for me. My older sisters all got married very young and had children, but I knew that I had to have a different future. I made a decision to use what I have—my creativity—to try and change my life. My mom eventually realized that I could do more than be a wife. Now I can continue with my education and do what I love to do.”

What’s something you’d like people to know about you or your job that they probably don’t?

“Most people assume that I hate my mother because she forced me to marriage. That is not true. I love my family. I don’t blame my mother for wanting to marry me at a young age. My own mother was married when she was 13 years old. This is the tradition and that is all she knew. She thought it would be best for me. I know that my mother loves me very much. Families just need to know new ways. They need new ideas, and they need to see new possibilities for their daughters. So we need to work in communities to show girls’ worth and help change these traditions.”

What are you most grateful for?

“There is so much I am grateful for. I am most grateful for my family’s safety, for having people in my life who believe in me and my vision. One of them is the organization I work with, The Strongheart Group. They work very hard to achieve my mission of ending child marriage in the world. I have wonderful friends who always support me. Something that I am most grateful for is having the opportunity to go to school. Not every girl has this opportunity and I was once one of them.”

Snack food you can’t live without?

“I really like cheeseburgers. When I first came to the U.S., I tried them for the first time and fell in love with them. I can say they are my most, most favorite!”

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