Hello and thanks for clicking on my story! This story is to help raise awareness about violence against women in Afghanistan and child marriage. Every year around the world 12 million girls are married before the age of 18 and 650 million women and girls alive today were married as children. 35% of girls in Afghanistan are married before 18 and 9% are married before age 15. This story is dedicated to all the strong and brave Afghan women who have fought for their rights and is a message of hope to all girls who have become victims or are at risk of becoming victims of child marriage. The title below is written in both English and Persian. Dari or Afghan Persian is a prominent language of Afghanistan. Now, without further adieu let us begin.

Daughters of War

دختران جنگ

Raleigh, North Carolina

Chapter 1

"Where did I put my passport!" I exclaimed for the millionth time that day. My open suitcase lay on the bed, unzipped, and stuffed to the brim with clothing, toiletries, and my special hand lotion that I could never go a day without.

"Woof" my Great Dane, Peanut, responded.

"I know right. It always seems to just go missing on me."

This was perfect. Just two days before I was due to leave for Afghanistan and my passport is nowhere to be found.

Yes, you heard me right. I was going to Afghanistan. As part of the generation that had grown up with the Afghan war, I had learned of the country as a young girl from the many news broadcasts detailing the latest disasters and attacks by the Taliban. I had learned of the plight of women and girls there and just knew one day I wanted to help others, one day I would go to Afghanistan. My parents in particular thought I was insane but I knew what my God was calling me to, my heart could not deny it.

Now I had the opportunity of a lifetime to go with an NGO...but not if I couldn't find my passport.

"Alright, Cassie think where would you have left it" I muttered to myself.

All of a sudden my phone buzzed, my best friend Amanda's gleaming picture displayed on the screen.

"Hey" I picked up.

"How's the packing going?"

"Good, I can't find my passport though."

"Did you check your purse Cass?"

"Don't be silly of course I checked my purse" I said playfully, showing that I meant no offense.

"Well, hope you find it. Hey, you coming to church tonight? Father Olsen wants to hold a group prayer for you to send you off safely."

"Really, that's so sweet of him. I'll definately be there."

There was a pause on the other end of the line, which usually meant Amanda was unsure whether or not to ask me something.

"What is it?"

"I'm just worried about you going is all."

"Hey, don't worry. I'll be fine. It's not like I'm going to be traveling alone."

"Promise me you'll be careful?"

"I promise."

"Good, do you feel ready?"

Now it was my turn to pause.

I was never one to have complete confidence in myself. I was introverted, quiet, and not exactly a leader. Yet, I was determined to go. I was determined I would make a difference.

"Do you think I have what it takes?"

"Girl your awesome, you totally got this."

I smiled.

"Thanks. Well I suppose I should get back to finding my passport."

"Call me when you get there and take lots of pictures."

"I'll try. See you later."

I clicked off the call and sighed, blowing air out of my mouth.

"Now where is that passport..."

###

Two hours and 53 minutes later I managed to find it under a pile of old laundry.

By then it was almost time to head to church.

I shoved my passport into my suitcase, zipped it up and nodded, satisfied.

"Bye Peanut" I scratched his ears and he gave me a big sloppy kiss on the hand.

"Mommy will be back in a few hours" I crooned to him, before removing my purse from the rack, slipping on a fashionable back leather jacket with sleeves that came only midway down my arm, and hurrying out to the car.

As I drove to the church I turned up the radio, and Christian music began to hum throughout the car.

*"All of my stressing

never gave me a second for

there is only one whose in control" I sang along.

As I pulled up in front of the church, I caught site of Amanda, who emphatically waved me over as I parked the car.

I barely had time to shut the door and lock the vehicle before she grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the church.

"Guess who's here?!"

"Amanda what is going on? What do you mean who's here?"

"Brad, and guess what?! He wants to see you!"

Brad Williams was just about one of the most handsome men at the Child Advocacy Center where I worked and probably my biggest crush.

Amanda pulled me inside the church, where our prayer group was assembled. Once a month we gathered at the church for fellowship and prayer for any needs we might have. The regulars like Mrs. Kittenworth, a lady in her eighties who had a special skill with knitting, were there, along with Mr. Paisley, and Father Olsen.

Father Olsen was a tall man of Norwegian descent, with blond hair beginning to turn slightly gray at the temples and green eyes that shined when they caught the light.

"Cassie, how are you? Welcome" He stretched out his hand to me and I took it.

"Good, and you?"

"Well, I've had to put up with Deacon Allen's presence but it's nothing I can't handle." He winked and smiled.

"I heard that!" Deacon Allen said, coming into the room with a tray of cups full of apple juice.

I giggled and went to sit with Amanda and Catherine, a woman in her thirties with brunette hair and a warm smile.

"Everybody" Father Olsen said, getting our attention as he stood in the front of the room.

When the room had quieted he continued.

"I'd like to thank the good lord and each of you for being here tonight. At this time I'd like to offer a special prayer for Cassie, who will soon embarking on her journey to Afghanistan. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

We crossed ourselves.

"Lord we wish to lift up Cassie. Protect her as she journeys to another land and works to help make the world a better place. We pray for a safe trip there and back and I also that you would protect and guide her to make the best decisions for herself and others. Amen"

"Amen" we all echoed, crossing ourselves.

###

When I arrived home exhausted and wanting to fall into bed, Peanut greeted me at the door, rubbing his head against me.

"I missed you too buddy." I scratched his head and he leaned his head to the side to feel it more thoroughly.

"Now, I'm going to fix my myself some tea and head to bed. We've got a big day coming up."

I put the kettle on the stove, and while waiting for it to whistle I slipped into my pajamas and picked up the latest book I'd been reading, making myself comfortable on the bed.

I had always been a fan of traditional romantic fairy tales, as can be attested by the title CINDERELLA TALES FROM ACROSS THE WORLD that was emblazoned upon the book.

Peanut made himself comfortable on the end of the bed, before the kettle whistled and his head perked up. I hurried to the stove and turned off the gas, pouring the steaming liquid into a mug and plopping a tea bag in.

As I attempted to settle down for bed with my tea, a knot suddenly formed in my stomach as I thought about my upcoming trip. Did I really have what it takes? Should I really going to Afghanistan? I shook off these doubts, finished my tea, and turned out the light.

*The lyrics are from the song Vapor by Jasmine Murray. I do not own this song, all rights go to Jasmine Murray. No copyright Intended.