A 9-year-old girl Afghanistan girl’s beautiful smile has been wiped off as she gets sold off to an older man so her family can afford to eat as the country crumbles.

The young girl, Parwana Malik, was sold as a child bride to a 55-year-old man whom she’s scared might beat her and force her to work in his house, but her parents have said they have no choice.

Life got hard for Parwana’s family who had lived in an Afghan displacement camp in northwestern Badghis since the Taliban took power in the country on August 15. Before then, they were able to survive doing the humanitarian aid and menial job and earning a few dollars a day, but as international aid dries up and the economy collapses, they are left with nothing.

Parwana isn’t the first child to be sold out in the family, before then, her father already sold her12-year-old sister and both of them are just a few of the young girls being sold into marriage in the country. As the brutal winter approaches, a lot of families are scared and are forced to make heartbreaking decisions.

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“Day by day, the numbers are increasing of families selling their children,” said Mohammad Naiem Nazem, a human rights activist in Badghis. “Lack of food, lack of work, the families feel they have to do this.”

This difficult choice has caused Abdul Malik, Parwana’s father, his night sleep as he is broken with guilt, shame and worry.

He had tried to avoid selling her, he traveled to the provincial capital city Qala-e-Naw to search unsuccessfully for work, even borrowing “lots of money” from relatives, and his wife resorted to begging other camp residents for food. But he felt he had no choice if he wants to feed his family.

“We are eight family members,” he told revealed. “I have to sell to keep other family members alive.”

The money from Parwana’s sale will only sustain the family for a few months before Malik has to find another solution, he said.

Parwana said she hoped to change her parents’ minds — she had dreams of becoming a teacher and didn’t want to give up her education. But her pleas were futile.

On October 24, Qorban, the buyer, who only has one name, arrived at her home and handed 200,000 Afghanis (about $2,200) in the form of sheep, land and cash to Parwana’s father. Qorban didn’t describe the sale as a marriage, saying he already had a wife who would look after Parwana as if she were one of their own children.

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“(Parwana) was cheap, and her father was very poor and he needs money,” Qorban said. “She will be working in my home. I won’t beat her. I will treat her like a family member. I will be kind.”

Parwana, dressed in a blackhead covering with a colorful floral garland around her neck, hid her face and whimpered as her weeping father told Qorban: “This is your bride. Please take care of her, you are responsible for her now, please don’t beat her.” Qorban agreed, then gripped Parwana’s arm and led her out the door. As they left, her father watching by the doorway, Parwana dug her feet into the dirt and tried to pull away — but it was no use. She was dragged to the waiting car, which slowly pulled away.

Tamera Glenn writes about culture and trending stories from different parts of the world.

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