Sonita, 18 years: Rapping against Child Marriage

Sonita

by Laura Saxer

Here, another post about women shoutingback through music. Sonita is an 18 year old female rapper from Afghanistan. With her music she is fighting against child marriage, something that she managed to escape from.

According to the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, 21% of Afghan girls are married by age 15. 12% of the girls between 15-19 start childbearing. 32% of all deaths of the 15-19 girls group and 47% of the deaths in the group from 20-24 year old girls are pregnancy related[1].

The first time Sonita was supposed to get married when she was 10 but the marriage did not go through. She fled with her family from the war in Afghanistan to Teheran, Iran, where she was not allowed to attend school because she was a refugee and had no ID. At an NGO for undocumented children she learned how to read and write. Thanks to those skills she discovered poetry and appreciated this way of telling her own story.

She started writing songs and with the help of some producers in Iran- it is illegal for women to sing except with special permission from the government- she started recording her work. She recorded her song “Brides for Sale” and uploaded the video on youtube. It starts with the lyrics

“Let me whisper, so no one hears that I speak of selling girls. My voice shouldn’t be heard since it’s against Sharia. Women must remain silent. This is our tradition.”

But then she continues:

“I scream to make up for a women’s lifetime silence. I scream on behalf of the deep wounds on my body.”

Her music became more and more popular and finally, she was awarded a full scholarship to study music in the US which was also her escape from being sold to a man. Besides her music studies she is campaigning against child marriage, as you can see in this interview with “Women in the World”.

Sonita’s story is another inspiring example of a strong girl shouting back- in this case rapping back- for gender equality. Her story also shows us that popular culture is providing cover for the political use of media[2] and hopefully this will have an impact on the current situation of girls in Afghanistan.

 

[1] http://www.wluml.org/sites/wluml.org/files/Afghanistan_brochure_0913_09032013.pdf

 

[2] Shirky, C. (2010): The political power of social media technology, the public sphere, and political change, Foreign Affairs, 90: 28.

 

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6 Comments

  1. Lidia Naskova

    What an interesting way to #shoutback for gender equality. Laura.

    Personally, I believe that rap, or lyrics in general is such an excellent way to vocally express oneself about inequalities in societies, and there are, in fact, many mainstream rappers that have challenged various societal attitudes in their lyrics that are relevant for your theme.

    Although the lyrics are not of the same seriousness such as Sonita’s, my personal favorite is Lauryn Hill, and her calling for women to take part in gender relations in her song the Doo-wop, which “deals with men and women equally, arguing that neither sex is blameless for the terrible state of gender relations. She admonishes men for not being man enough to stick by a woman and raise a family, but she devotes a lot more time to calling out women for encouraging the problem. She admonishes women for putting too much time and effort into their looks and not developing their personality and intelligence. She tells women to play by their own rules; not by a man’s” [1].

    Another great example where a rapper have used their communication platforms as a tool for changing societal attitudes is the case of Mykki Blanco, (or Michael Quattlebaum Jr) who is a gender non-conforming rapper in NYC, advocating for LGBTQ and women’s rights, which can be seen, for example in the following text:

    “Homophobia comes from misogyny, the hatred of women. If you can’t see the connection between homophobia and the hatred of women, you’re blind.” [1]

    The third example that a friend told me about is slightly similar to the case of Sonita. Mayam Mahmoud, an Egyptian rapper, who uses feminist lyrics to gain respect, more freedom and to protest against sexual harassment of women in Egypt [2]. I also believe that she break the stereotypical image of how a rapper should look like, mostly due to her wearing a hijab. Have a look here: https://youtu.be/WvkIdDRwhr4

    Similar to Sonita, all of these examples underline that rap and hip-hop can be used in different ways to highlight gender inequalities, and hopefully more rappers within mainstream hip-hop will start using their communication platforms for issues such as this.

    Thank again you for an interesting read!

    References
    [1] http://mic.com/articles/89595/13-times-hip-hop-taught-men-to-respect-women
    [2] http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/25/world/africa/female-egyptian-rapper-tackles-equality/

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