Taman was born to a poor family in Afghanistan, which didn’t have money to send her to school. So, she took matters into her own hands to be educated. “I was always working odd jobs and learning and trying different things so I could earn extra money to pay for my education,” Taman told one of our CWS colleagues in Jakarta recently. At the age of 12, Taman was already a hairdresser and seamstress. She would make clothes and sell them to her neighbours. This innovative and entrepreneurial attitude was successful, until a day that changed her life and ended her formal education at Grade 7.
That day she came home and found that her brother had sold her to a man in his 40s. Forced child marriage is common in Afghanistan, particularly in rural areas where desperately poor families sell their daughters for cash. Once married, Taman continued sewing to keep her mind off the bad situation she was in. Still, she couldn’t handle the stress of her circumstances, so she boarded a bus to Kabul and lived in a run-down hotel while she sorted out a plan to travel through Pakistan to India – as tens of thousands of Afghans have done through decades of turmoil in their homeland. Also like many other Afghans, Taman has relatives in India who, with help from a smuggler, she was able to reach with hopes of a new life. By a familiar smuggling route, Taman reached Jakarta, where she was met by someone in the smuggling network who took her to Bogor, a city 60 kilometers (37.5 miles) south of Jakarta and left her in a market. She didn’t know where she was, but she managed to meet a couple of Iranian refugees and asked for their help. They took her to the UNHCR in Jakarta, where she registered and met several other Afghan refugees. After a month of living in temporary housing, Taman was able to move to the girls’ group home that CWS supports with funding from the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. Then, once she settled in, Taman got busy. She joined all the classes and activities she could, including an informal school for refugees. “I wasted a lot of time in Afghanistan, and now I am making up for lost time. I want to learn everything! Thanks to CWS, I have an opportunity to take all these classes. Learning keeps me busy and is what I have always wanted: lots and lots of learning!”
Apart from her eagerness to learn, Taman’s artistic talents were discovered by a Social Worker who noticed drawings she posted on the wall next to her bed and encouraged her to join an art class with CWS partner, Kampus Diakoneia Modern. “It started out easy at first, because I already spend a lot of time drawing: I usually draw every night before I go to bed. But then we started using color pencils and oil paint – which was all new to me! Using colors and learning new techniques added a new dimension to my drawing!” Taman explained. Impressed by her progress, her teacher asked her and two other students to sketch a drawing on a 3-feet x 6-feet canvas for a yearly sports event for underprivileged children, where each child had a chance to fill in the drawing with color, and it is now displayed in KDM’s art class. Taman comments “I had never drawn on a canvas before, let alone one this big. The drawing was fun, the children enjoyed it, and the result was wonderful.”
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