A Widow’s Story

It was 2002, and the day started off like any other day, but this day ended differently, this day changed Fatima’s life forever.  What she had once considered a normal day, was no longer.  Fatima was now the product of war. 

Fatima’s family lived a comfortable life in Kabul, Afghanistan.    While war had reared its ugly head over the last 20 years, they had learned how to survive and make a living in spite of living in a war zone.   Fatima’s husband was the sole provider for the family, while Fatima stayed home to raise their 4 children.  They were not wealthy by any means, but they lived a comfortable life, they had a roof over their heads, food to eat, and clothes on their backs. 

Then one day all of that changed.   One day Fatima’s husband had left for work in the morning and never returned home.  Fatima tried to locate her husband, but to no avail.  She doesn’t know what became of him.  It’s possible he was a product of war himself and was kidnapped, taken prisoner, or even killed.  It’s possible he could not handle the pressures of trying to provide for his family, especially in a time of war, therefore ran off.  As the days passed by the realization of the situation started to sink in.  The money ran out and her babies were crying for food.  What was she to do, she had no skills, no education, and no one to watch her children. 

Fatima went into survival mode, she had to make decisions and choices that would keep her family alive.  Her two oldest daughters where in their teens and old enough to be married off.  By marrying them off, she would not have to feed them and provide for them, they would have a better situation than what she could give them.  Now with only 2 children to depend on her it definitely helped, but was it enough?  She did everything she could to bring in enough money to feed and provide for Abdullah and Najia, including washing other people’s laundry.  It was not long before she realized the sacrifice she made in marrying off her daughters was not enough to help feed the two children she still had at home. 

It was hard to find a job in Kabul at the time, let alone find a job with no experience or education.  She was quickly running out of options.  She had no one to turn to, not even family.  The culture says she could not go live with her daughters as they now belonged to their in-laws.  Every day was getting harder and harder, and the day finally came where she had to make another difficult decision.  She realized she could not provide for both of her children therefore, she found a children’s home that would take in 8 year old Abdullah.  This transition was very difficult for all parties.  Abdullah cried everyday wanting to go home to his mother and younger sister, Najia was crying missing her big brother, and Fatima was not only physically struggling trying to provide, but she was also emotionally struggling with having to once again split up her family.  She soon found it best to place 6 year old, Najia, in the children’s home as well.  By doing this Abdullah and Najia found comfort in each other and were able to adapt to the children’s home and soon both were thriving. 

While Fatima missed Abdullah and Najia terribly, she was content in the fact that they were being fed, able to attend school, and had a roof over their heads.  Which is far more than what she had.  After being in an out of women shelters Fatima was finally able to find a job cleaning the office of a local doctor.  This job came with a bonus, a very small storage closet that she could use to sleep in.  The one weekend a month that Abdullah and Najia came to visit her they would stay in the women’s shelter as the storage closet was too small for the three of them.  Fatima now had an income coming in, her monthly salary would vary from 1500 – 3000Afs ($26 – $50) a month, depending on how much extra work she could get washing clothes.  While this was a steady income it didn’t give her much extra beyond the cost of food, and as a result Fatima did without many things most people would call necessities.  For many winters Fatima did not have enough money to afford heat for her small room.  The winter temps in Kabul easily drop down to -15 degrees F. Night after night and year after year of suffering the extreme temperatures have brought physical challenges into Fatima’s life.

Fatima

It has been 12 long years since that dreadful day Fatima’s husband disappeared. Every day she has willed herself to get up and get through the day.  Her problems have not gone away and in many cases she has developed new problems. After sleeping on a hard concrete floor through all those winters, Fatima has developed several health problems.  These problems are hindering her from being able to work, but her life has started to turn around.  Abdullah and Najia have grown to become healthy, beautiful, and very smart young man and woman.  Abdullah has just started university and is now working and able to support Fatima.  He is a hard worker and is very determined to take care of his mother.  Najia is still at the children’s home and in two years will be graduating high school with dreams of becoming a doctor.  She is driven and won’t let anything stand in her way of reaching her goals.  The day to day life is still not easy for Fatima, but slowly it is improving.