After Escaping Marriage to Afghan Man, 70, in 10th Grade, Rihala Is Now Pursuing a Law Degree
“It’s the law that can protect people. Only the law," said Rihala.
By Beth Murphy
Last week I learned the word “charistry” – a charity wedding registry - thanks to Davinia James whose nuptials will be a big “I do” for girls’ education. Instead of gifts, Davinia and her fiancé Nick are asking family and friends to support Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation, a nonprofit that runs a K-12 girls’ school and women’s college in Afghanistan.
I’ve been filming at the Zabuli Education Center in Deh’Subz, Afghanistan for the past 8 years to make the documentary “What Tomorrow Brings,” and I can tell you who will benefit from Davinia’s generosity: girls like Rihala Baraki and her three sisters.
When I met Rihala in 2009, she was 18-years-old and entering 5th grade. She was the only student in the school old enough to remember what life had been like under Taliban rule, and it inspired her dream of becoming a police officer.
“It’s the law that can protect people. Only the law,” Baraki said.
Five years later, Rihala – now a 10th grader – was in the fight of her life. She was trying to stop her father from forcing her to marry a 70-year-old man and in the process faced extreme physical and emotional abuse. The experience strengthened her resolve and her belief in the law.
“The injustice at home is a lesson for me. I want to be a lawyer,” Rihala shared before a long absence from school. With help from her teachers, Rihala returned to finish 10th grade. Then 11th. Then 12th.
“It was such a beautiful moment to give her that diploma… to know she had defied all the odds,” said school founder Razia Jan after Rihala’s graduation in December.
Rihala starts college next month – the beginning of Afghanistan’s school year – and, not surprisingly, she has her sights set on a law degree. Her college tuition – like the high school tuitions for her three younger sisters - will be supported by Razia’s Ray of Hope – and one very generous bride who saw a film and decided to act.
Beth Murphy is the Director of Films at The GroundTruth Project and founder of Principle Pictures. Her film “What Tomorrow Brings”, a recipient of the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund, aired on PBS’s POV series.