Naila Amin Foundation
I came to America from Pakistan. I was born in a remote village in the Attock tribal region where people live more by the code of Pashtunwali than the religion of Islam. I was born at home, by a local midwife. I don't even know if the time on my birth certificate is exact or approximate. When I turned four my pregnant mother, three siblings and I traveled to New York City to join my father, who was a merchant marine. I started attending school and wore jeans and T-shirts.
At the age of 8, I mean I was only a child, I was betrothed to my first cousin, Tariq. My family was on a visit to Pakistan. I went from calling him "lala", a term of endearment for big brother, to suddenly looking at him as my future spouse. He was 13 years older than me. I continued living a pretty normal life in America. I had my nose pierced and I had a crush on a boy, up until 2003.
I went back for my older brother's wedding and I had my Nikah done. I was now Tariq's wife according to Islamic law. I was 13 years old, waiting to start high school. I was not happy. They did this so they can come back to the U.S. and apply for spousal sponsorship. As long as the parents’ consent is there, in 49 states you can get your child married. I started the 9th grade and met a boy. My parents found out and I was abused and taken away by Child Protective Services.
I ran away from the group home and went back to my parents’ house and I was taken to Pakistan for the last time. At the age of 15, shown in my profile picture, I was sent to live with my husband. It was like living in hell. I lived with my biggest enemy. I fed him, I cleaned his clothes, I did everything for my rapist &someone I hated more than life itself. He took my childhood away from me. I will never be the same again.
I have founded the Naila Amin Foundation and plan on having girls under 18 escaping forced marriages in my home. Since minors can’t go into shelters unless they are 18. Child Protective Services can’t help them unless they are physically being abused or sexually. These young girls have nowhere to go, so they succumb to a life of slavery. I want to be that culturally competent safe haven they can comfortably live in. We will have individualized plans for each girl as she nears the age of 18 and then hopefully send them to an Independent living program or a Sister home where they can age out of Foster care with an education or some kind of trade. They will get medical/psychiatric help, Educational services, and vocational skills and hopefully go to College. I was lucky that the State Department saved me and got me out of Pakistan, but how many girls will not be that lucky?
Statistics show how big of a problem this is. The state of NJ alone shows that 3,481 children were married in New Jersey between 1995 and 2012. Most were age 16 or 17 and married with parental consent, but 163 were between ages 13 and 15, meaning a judge approved their marriages. Outrageously, 91% of the children were married to adults, often at ages or with age differences that could have triggered statutory-rape charges, not a marriage license. This is a bigger problem than we think.
The health department data on the ages of people recently married in New York State, where 16- and 17-year-olds may wed with “parental consent” and 14- and 15-year-olds may wed with judicial approval. The data show that 3,853 children were married between 2000 and 2010. More than 700 million women alive today were married before 18, including some 250 million who wed before 15, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund. Most live in South Asia or sub-Saharan Africa, but as these new numbers show, too many live right here in the United States. We need to #ENDCHILDMARRIAGENOW #NOMORECHILDBRIDES
Standing with a noble man who changed so many lives yesterday. Way to go NJ.
NJ is now the second state to end child marriage without any exceptions.#18noexceptions
Thank you Governor Phil Murphy.
Thank you Governor Phil Murphy.
Governor Cuomo just signed the bill raisisng the Minimum age. Thank you to everyone who has been on this journey with me and has supported me. We still have a long ways to go.