Mahnoor was born into an impoverished family in Shahdara Lahore, Pakistan. Without any other means of supporting Mahnoor’s future, her family arranged for her to get married at 14, despite this being illegal (the 2019 amendment to the Child Marriage Restraint bill raised the minimum legal age for a woman to get married to 18).
The marriage had a severe negative impact on Mahnoor. Her husband was addicted to drugs, and she suffered physical and mental about from both him and her in laws. She tried to make the relationship work, but the situation only worsened, and finally after 18 months she separated from her husband. She returned home to her family, but their domestic situation had not improved. Mahnoor’s mother was dependent on her sons, who weren’t supportive, which left her mother with financial difficulties. Following the abuse she experienced at the hands of her husband and his family, and the lack of support she received from her own, Mahnoor was left feeling inferior and with poor self-esteem.
To try and improve her situation, Manhoor decided to work to support herself and started looking for jobs. However, without any education, she found it difficult to find reasonable work, eventually selling a number of goods on roadsides in the city. On the streets, she faced different forms of abuse and often felt unsafe.
The one bright spot for Mahnoor while on the streets was her meeting with the team from Search for Justice, and she shared her story with the social mobiliser. After sharing her story, the team arranged counselling sessions and ongoing moral support, recognizing how badly her experiences had affected her. It took the team at Search for Justice some time to help Mahnoor feel like herself again, and to build her self-esteem back up to help her realise she is capable of anything.
After gaining some confidence, Mahnoor expressed an interest in learning some new skills, with a particular interest in a cooking course. Her lack of education meant she didn’t meet the criteria for admission to the institution offering the course, but thanks to an intervention from Search for Justice, the institution relaxed their criteria and admitted Mahnoor to her chosen cooking course. On successful completion of her course, Mahnoor was offered in internship, and later a job, in a hotel. No longer financially dependent on her family, Mahnoor’s confidence and self-esteem has increased, and she wants to continue her connection to Search for Justice by volunteering to facilitate sessions for children and young people on the streets.
*Name has been changed