Through free education, equal rights reform and the encouragement of female leadership, the government of Azerbaijanhas attempted to improve women’s status in society.
The problem for families like Leila’s is that such changes reach only the upper echelons of society. Brought up in a rural village near Azerbaijan’s second city of Ganja, Leila was raised in a culture in which men made all the decisions.
“I was enrolled in school, but I couldn’t go,” she says. Instead, her father thought she should learn how to care for a family and maintain a household. Today, Leila is illiterate.
In her late teens, she married and moved to Ganja, where poverty is more widespread than anywhere else in the country. Though some menial work is available to women, many husbands prevent their wives from leaving the house, preferring to keep their families in poverty than allow their wives the most basic of freedoms.
Such was the case in Leila’s story. Her husband controlled every aspect of her life, forbidding her to leave their home and depriving her of money. Her day was confined to an enclosed yard, where she would clean, cook, wash, and feed the chickens. The neighbours often heard shouting and loud noises, but Leila never reported domestic violence.
SOS Children stepped in when the scale of poverty in which Leila and her family were living began to seriously threaten her children’s well-being.
By providing food, clothing and school equipment, SOS Children enabled Leila’s daughters to go to school. Tutoring helped them catch up with the syllabus, while Leila herself attended group counselling, led and attended by other women, to help her recover from years of abuse.
For Leila, our support has been life-changing. Simply opening up and talking to others has helped her no end.
Why her husband has allowed her to attend is a mystery. SOS social worker Mehriban can only guess: “I think it’s because we helped fix their home, gave them food, taught their children. He realised we genuinely care for families.”
Though she may never fully recover, knowing her daughters are in school gives Leila hope that they will enjoy a better future than her. Now, she genuinely believes they will be able to exercise their rights and make their own life choices.
Our support is helping break the cycle of poverty for many families in Azerbaijan. You can also read more about our work to help Indian women achieve financial independence and a successful future for their daughters.