Sonita Alizadeh is an Afghan rapper and activist against forced child marriages. Being subjected once to forced marriage, Sonita defied her parents and now uses rap music to end the practice.
Sonita's powerful voice and poetic lyrics encourage girls from all over the world to be the ones to decide their destinies. The song she wrote called "Daughters for Sale" earned international recognition. The music video to the song went viral on youtube and has since been an inspiration to many Afghan girls.
Five facts about Sonita Alizadeh
As a child, Sonita Alizadeh fled to Iran to escape the terrors of the Afghan militant group Taliban.
Her parents tried to sell her as a bride when she was only ten years of age.
Iranian rapper Yas and American rapper Eminem were among her biggest influencers when she took up music.
Sonita was named as one of BBC's 100 women in 2015 and also as one of the Global Thinkers of 2015 by foreign policy magazine.
Today Sonita lives in the United States of America where she continues to strongly advocate for the end of child marriages in the world.
Sonita Alizadeh Biography
Sonita Alizadeh was born in 1996 in Herat, Afghanistan which was under the rule of the Taliban. As a child, her family fled to Iran to escape the Taliban. In Iran, she could not attend school because she had no legal papers. However, she learned to read and write at a Non-governmental Organisation for Afghan refugees. It was here that she took a special interest in music and poetry.
To support her family, Sonita Alizadeh worked as a cleaner where she cleaned bathrooms and offices.
While living in Iran, Alizadeh won a $1000 prize at a U.S based competition for a music video that encouraged young Afghans to vote. Despite Iranian laws forbidding women from singing in public, Alizadeh continued to record songs about being a refugee, a young woman, and the Afghanistan war.
At the age of 16, her mother who had returned to Afghanistan, sent for her to be brought home. She had found a man that was willing to pay to be her husband. Ironically, the proceeds from this marriage arrangement would go to her brother so that he can buy his wife for himself.
She was saved from this second forced marriage attempt by an Iranian documentary filmmaker called Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami. She offered her mother money for six months of Alizadeh's freedom. During this time, with the help of Rokhsareh, she made the "Daughters for Sale" music video. The message in this video was so powerful and evocative that it immediately went viral when it was uploaded to Youtube. The video was so effective that her family gave in and decided that she did not need to get married.
The video earned her international recognition and the non-profit organization Strongheart Group reached out to her. She was offered a study visa to the U.S.A where she has been residing since 2015.
Sonita Alizadeh is a rapper and human rights, activist. She champions the end of early and forced marriages having survived two such attempts herself. Alizadeh is currently a student at Bard College in New York, U.S.A.
Sonita is currently taking classes in Human rights and international relations at Bard college. She is also studying the English language. Sonita is doing a good job at harmonizing her studies with her public figure status.
The documentary made by Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami called Sonita about Sonita's escape from forced marriage won many accolades. Sonita won the World Documentary Audience Award and the Grand Jury award at the Sundance film festival as well as the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the IDFA Amsterdam film festival.
Sonita Alizadeh continues to use music as a tool against retrogressive culture. She has shared the stage with very prominent people including heads of state and Nobel prize laureates. In 2020 she addressed the United Nations on child marriage and education for girls on behalf of the Girls not Brides organization.
Sonita Alizadeh has been featured by over 200 media outlets from across 20 countries. Alizadeh even calls herself a raptivist and believes in changing the world through her performances. She is motivated by the fact that she managed to change her family's view towards early marriage.
Alizadeh's rap music has created global awareness on the sale of little girls as brides. She acknowledges that about 12 million girls are forced to marry as children and she hopes to help in finding a solution to the problem to save the lives of the next generation.
Championing for the rights of the little girls has earned Sonita Alizadeh the reputation of being among one the greatest thinkers of our time.
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