Sonita Alizadeh

Ending Child Marriage

“I saw them with bruises on their faces. I heard them talking with fear about getting married. They were 15 and 16 years old, but they acted like old women, tired of being alive. They were being forced to marry and they were giving up on their own lives. I wanted to talk about that.” – Sonita
Every year, 12 million girls are married before they turn 18 years old. That means every year 12 million dreams go dark. When a girl becomes a bride, her fundamental human rights are shattered: she almost always loses her opportunity for an education, her health is put in peril and her safety at risk. Child marriage happens everywhere. It devastates the lives of girls, negatively impacts communities and ultimately stunts the growth of nations.
As a young woman who barely escaped becoming a child bride, Sonita Alizadeh is well-aware of the devastating consequences of forced marriage. Sonita was born in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime but grew up as an undocumented refugee in Iran where she faced forced marriage as a teenager Still unsure of her fate in 2014 she wrote the song Daughters for Sale to express her pain and share the experience of so many of her friends, and the song caught fire around the world.
In 2015, with the backing of Strongheart, Sonita came to the United States to pursue her dream of getting an education. Over the course of a few short years, Sonita has transformed from a teenager with no formal education to a high school graduate recognized as the leading youth advocate for child marriage in the world. Sonita’s message is reaching the highest levels of global leadership, and her story and vision are inspiring young women around the world to stand up against child marriage.
Impact Examples:
In 2016 Strongheart and Sonita partnered with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Center for Justice and Human Rights on their Speak Truth to Power Curriculum lesson on child marriage. To date, it has reached 1.5 million students in 15 countries. Soon, in partnership with Discover, it will be reaching an additional 30 million students worldwide.
Sonita has been broadly recognized for using the power of her story as a catalyst for change.
+ TIME Magazine Next Generation Leader   (2018)
+ Newsweek’s Women to Watch   (2018)
+ Rolling Stone Magazine’s 25 Under 25   (2017)
+ Asia Game Changer Award   (2017)
+ Teen Vogue 10 Faces of Feminism   (2016)
+ Together for Girls – 16 Global Heroes   (2016)
+ Women for Afghan Women Human Rights Advocacy Award   (2016)
+ Foreign Policy Magazine’s 150 Global Thinkers of 2015
+ BBC’s 100 Women of 2015
She has been interviewed by Chelsea Clinton and spoken with the Prime Minister of Norway. She has advocated for the rights of girls with the United Nations, U.S. Department of State, Dutch and Norwegian Ministries of Foreign Affairs, the First Lady of Afghanistan, the World Bank Group, and Ambassadors from around the world.
Our work has earned media coverage from CNN, PRI, BBC, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Vice, MTV, BuzzFeed News, and many more with 300+ publications in over 20 countries. Sonita has also been featured in 3 books, inspiring girls with her story.
Sonita inspires young people around the world to believe in their own power and value. It is her goal to ignite a global movement that will impassion youth to stand for their dreams and help to bring an end to child marriage.
To support Sonita’s campaign to end child marriage,