Crowd funds London dream of Afghan girl who fled abusive home

Laila Rasekh from Afghanistan was seven years old when her mother pushed her to work for her livelihood.
Laila Rasekh. (File Photo)
Laila Rasekh. (File Photo)

CHENNAI: Laila Rasekh from Afghanistan was seven years old when her mother pushed her to work that no child should ever be forced for. She was tortured by her own family. But Laila managed to be brought to India by Women for Afghan Women (WAW) in 2014 and managed to complete her schooling at a reputed institution in Kodaikanal.

Laila, who always wanted to be a journalist and with quite some stories in her kitty, recently completed her postgraduate diploma in journalism from the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. To finish the last leg of her education at the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) in London, she is seeking funds through a crowdfunding platform. As much as Rs 14.8 lakh of Rs 20 lakh has been raised so far. She has got admission for Masters in International Politics.

After her mother went to prison, WAW took her to one of their Children’s Support Centers in Afghanistan. In 2013, when she was in Class 9, her mother was released from the prison and wanted to take Laila back with her and threatened to kidnap her. Laila had then no other option, but to flee to India.

Nityanand Jayaraman, who was her guardian, said, “I knew a member of WAW, who contacted me asking if I can be Laila’s guardian in 2014. I got to witness an innocent girl, who did not know a word of English, Tamil or Hindi, transform into a fierce and strong-minded woman over the years. Everywhere she went, she had a scholarship.”

Chennai is my home, says 23-year-old Laila. “Whenever I had a break in school, I would come to Chennai. This city is where my journey began. My journey, though painful, has been instrumental in shaping my worldview and underscoring the importance of education, especially for girls,” she said.

“I got admitted to one of the world’s best institutes. But what stands between me and the education, that will set me free to pursue a meaningful career, is money for tuition and expenses. This is a terrifying moment for me. The SOAS course is not merely the final step toward my career. It is the only thing that keeps me from being sent back to Kabul.”

In the years that she has spent in India, the situation in Afghanistan has gone from bad to worse. “If I return, my efforts and education will be for nothing as women have no standing in today’s Afghan society,” said Laila.

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