When she was 14, Jhorna became a child bride.
Within a few months of her marriage, Jhorna’s mother in-law began to demand dowry from her father. The pressure started to increase more and more each day. Supported by his family, her husband began to abuse her physically. Jhorna’s husband held a knife to her throat, threatening to kill her because she protested against the abusive language toward their daughter.
Jhorna took her daughter and fled.
She found refuge in her family’s home, and Jhorna’s mother took her to see a PHR social worker, who gave her a shoulder to lean on. Jhorna divorced her husband and, thanks to services offered by PHR, she was able to keep custody of her daughter.
Feeling empowered, she started a new life. She bought land with the money PHR helped her receive through the legal settlement. She enrolled in USAID’s horticulture project and became one of 52 survivors of domestic violence who received horticulture training through the project last year.
“I have a plot of my own that is full of vegetables,” she said. “Now I am happy with my daughter free from suffering.”
When she was young, Rabeya was married off to a man she did not know, trusting that her parents knew best.
Her husband was heavily addicted to drugs, and he stayed away from home every few days. When he did come home there was abuse from her husband and his family.
When a PHR social worker learned of Rabeya’s worries, she came to her rescue. After much psychosocial counseling, Ruksana referred the case to the Legal Counseling Center. When they brought the families together, Rabeya’s husband promised to be more attentive. Soon after Rabeya went back to her in-laws’ house, the same issues arose. Finally, with PHR’s help, Rabeya decided to leave for good.
Now, PHR’s Legal Counselor is trying to help her reach a legal solution and get a divorce, if that is what Rabeya wants.
She took the opportunity to learn homestead gardening when PHR offered her training through USAID’s horticulture project. The project taught her how to build a fence, grow vegetables, and protect the plants from insects. But mostly, she learned to take a step towards independence.
“Girls need to find their way out,” she said. “But for those girls like me who can’t, social workers need to find them and offer support.”
When Reba was 20, she fell in love with and married a man from another religion, leading her family to ostracize her. Because Reba had converted to his religion, the community accepted her and she was content for a short while.
Slowly things began to change, however. The family was poor, and her husband began to take out his frustrations on Reba. He even began to beat their three children.
The kicks and punches left Reba with an empty mouth and a broken knee. She had enough. She approached two PHR social workers and urged them to visit her house. There, she showed them her injuries. Reba was provided with psychosocial counseling and immediate medical services. She was also taken to see a legal counselor.
“I couldn’t walk,” she said. “My leg was broken; it was rotting and smelled. Now I can walk. My legal counselor helped me more than my mother ever did. If she wasn’t there, I would be dead by now.”
After Reba filed her legal complaint, her husband fled, and his family would not let Reba back into the house. PHR provided Reba and her children with shelter for a short time to help them get back on their feet.
Bilkis fell in love with an older man when she was 15.
She did not know he was already married, and didn’t make that discovery until she was a year into the marriage.
“No woman wants to share her husband,” Bilkis said.
For five years, they lived without much argument, but slowly the abuse began. He kept hitting her and leaving her for his first wife. When she became pregnant with her fourth child, she had had enough. This time when he hit her, she fought back. So, he left the house and did not come back.
She was pregnant, alone, and desperate to reunite with her husband. She went to the house of her husband’s first wife to look for him. Bilkis knew she was not welcome, but she did not expect what happened next. With the help of her brothers and sister, his first wife tried to suffocate her by tying a rope around Bilkis’ neck, then hit her with a torchlight.
PHR social workers received the news and provided psychosocial counseling. They took her to a government hospital where they learned the baby was unharmed.
With the help of a legal counselor, Bilkis filed a complaint against her husband in the police station and sent him a legal notice. Through the PHR shelter assistance program, she was able to move into her uncle’s house. The program paid him a monthly stipend for up to six months to help with the extra cost.
After briefly reuniting with her husband, he left her again. Thankfully, PHR reinstated her shelter support, gave her psychological support, and offered medical services through referrals to help her with the delivery. Soon Bilkis gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
She is starting all over again with a new addition to the family. Though her own life has been difficult, Bilkis hopes that this new baby will grow up to be a strong woman with hopes of a brighter future.
Merina was married without her consent at age 15. Her husband turned out to be an unemployed drug addict.
“I did not want to get married, but I had to accept the reality,” she said. “This is not the life I dreamed of.”
After two years, she gave birth to a son.
“I thought my husband would see his son and change his ways,” she said. “Instead, he started living outside and came home once a month. After nine years of marriage, he suddenly disappeared and couldn’t be reached. Seeing no other option, I had to return to my parents’ home.”
Six months later, her husband turned up dead at the front door. Everyone said it looked like murder, but they had no suspects.
“He caused me pain even in death,” she said “I don’t know why I had to bear such suffering. I was even deprived of my husband’s property.”
After being introduced to PHR staff, a legal counselor helped her get a share of her husband’s property, which her husband’s family did not return to her. Finally, Merina filed a case under the Domestic Violence Protection and Prevention Act of 2010, and the court ordered the home, land, and pond to be returned to Merina.
A PHR social worker also helped Merina secure a job to support her family.
Soon, she intends to buy a bicycle for her son so he can attend a better school.
“I am grateful to PHR for standing beside my son and me,” she said. “I have my home again. And, my nightmares are over.”
Learn more about these five survivors and the PHR program.