Ayesha, age 18
Every poor girl wishes for more education, for the opportunity to learn and go to school; for a childhood. But many of us are not that fortunate. The day my brother was born was bittersweet; I was no longer allowed to go to school. Due to the increased household responsibilities, my father told me that I must stay home and eventually begin to work.
On the night of his birth, while my whole family was celebrating, I went to my uncle's house to get more bread. I didn't know a young man was there. In the empty home, he took advantage of me; he did things that I didn't understand; he touched my chest. Before I could realize, there was a cloth over my mouth and I was being raped. I was having trouble walking back home; I felt faint and I had a headache. This happens a lot in villages. Young girls are raped, murdered, and buried. No one is able to trace them after their disappearance. If a woman is not chaste, she is unworthy of marriage. All he did is ask for forgiveness and they let him go as it was best to avoid having others find out what had happened. He didn't receive any punishment even though he ruined me. People may have forgotten what he did, but I never forgot. Now, he is married and living his life happily. I blame my own fate; I am just unlucky that this happened to me.
When I began working, I was afraid. I guess it was natural, I was only ten. I consider myself lucky though. In the homes where I worked, I was responsible taking care of the children; getting them ready, feeding them and playing with them. I used to have so much fun. I felt like I was a child among them. I was able to relive my own childhood. Soon, I became so used to working that I began feeling safer and happier at work than in my own home and village. Our village is full of intoxication and indecent and disrespectful men; men like my own father.
At the moment, we live in Karachi in a small home with one room and the floor is broken. Whenever I would visit my parents, either I would witness abusive arguments between them or something far more disturbing. Since I was young, my father had always beaten my mother shamelessly. My entire family is aware of my father's abuse; it is no secret. My mother is very obedient; she never says no to my father. She leaves home for work at 8 am and only returns at midnight. Even if she is tired, she does everything to make him happy; she runs our home and cooks whatever he wishes. All the men in our village beat their wives, it is a norm and women continue to let it happen. Maybe it is fear, maybe it is desperation, I never quite understood.
As sad as it may sound, part of me does not fear the physical abuse anymore. I fear much bigger things. As I grew older, my father changed. He began smoking, drinking, and maybe even using drugs with my income. He began sleeping next to me. In the middle of the night, he would touch me inappropriately and remove my clothes. Because I was afraid, I would act like I was sleeping and would turn the other way. After his first time sexually abusing me, every night I slept in my home in fear. I kept dreaming that my father is raping me. I get so scared. I have heard that if you don't share your dream with someone else, then it never happens. So I never shared what happened to me.
After these incidents, the only person I could turn to was my employer. She is aware of what happens in my home and I know I can trust her. In January, I feared I may have been pregnant, and she took care of all my medical expenses without letting anyone find out. Thankfully, I was not, but she was ready to take care of me if I was. A woman's reputation is so fragile in Pakistani society. I have requested for her not to let me go for vacation time, and to keep me in her home where I feel safe. Without judging me, she accepted me, and has given me a place in her home like a daughter; a place even my own parents could not give me. Please Share store and help ayesha.