When she was 16, Kibriyo Khaitova’s parents told her that if she didn’t marry, she’d soon be a spinster. So, like many girls from Tajikistan, Khaitova married a man her family found for her. Now 20, she has two children, no husband and is fending for herself.
“My parents told me that I was old enough and that I needed to get married,” said Khaitova, who lives in the Ferghana Valley, an area of Central Asia where traditional, conservative social attitudes are entrenched. “I told them that I wanted to continue my education, but they said that men do not like educated girls and you do not need an education to be a good wife. The first time I saw my husband was at my wedding. I was very scared, but my grandmother told me I would be fine.”
Tajikistan’s widespread poverty is a major cause of early marriage in the country, according to a recent report by the Eurasia Foundation. In rural families, boys become the main breadwinners and girls are often considered financial burdens.
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