Forget about the Iran that you know. These are the stories of three defiant young women who try to overcome the traumas of their past with the help of a charity that works to instill a sense of empowerment and hope into the minds and lives of otherwise discarded adolescent young women. The stories take you to a never-before-seen underclass of Iran:

 

MOJDEH

(pictured above)

 

When Mojdeh’s father was sentenced to life imprisonment for selling drugs, her mother also became a drug dealer. At the age of 14, Mojdeh was sexually abused and tried to kill herself by taking rat poison; but then, like her parents, she turned to drugs. After eight years of addiction, she made the decision to turn her life around. Her aunt had heard about a charity running a programme of care and education and referred her to them. Mojdeh enrolled with them in June 2015 and found that their programme's multidisciplinary therapy helped her deal with stress and anxiety. Even so, she knows it will be a long road to full recovery. She graduated from the programme in December 2017 and is now enrolled on a vocational training programme to become a beautician. She lives at the charity's shelter, however, because she is still too emotionally fragile to lead an independent life.


 

 

NAZANIN

(pictured above)

 

After a short and unsuccessful arranged marriage to an addict, Nazanin returned to her impoverished family home. Faced with an addicted father, disabled brother and two sexually abusive cousins, Nazanin began to use drugs and eventually attempted suicide by eating a large dose of opium and was rushed to the hospital. A social worker at the hospital knew of a charity that supports marginalised young women through a programme of care and education, and referred her to them. Nazanin enrolled on their programme in June 2015, and through therapy and education learned how to value herself and to begin working towards a safe and sustaining future. She also attended night-time high school classes and received her high school diploma in May 2017. She is set to graduate from the charity's programme in April 2018 and — wanting to study pharmacology at Azad University in Tehran — will shortly be sitting her university entrance examinations. If successful, Nazanin will be the first member of her family to attend university, and will receive a scholarship from the charity in order to do so.


 

 

MARYAM

(pictured above)

 

Maryam grew up in a poor family which went from one financial crisis to the other. Her father and two elder brothers were opium addicts which meant that they could not hold down a job. When she was 13, the family began selling Maryam as a sex slave in order to fund the drug habits of her father and two brothers. Her mother chose not to get involved. Maryam's predicament came to light when she was hospitalised after a “customer” beat her and broke her arm. A hospital social worker referred Maryam to a charity that protects and empowers young women, and their lawyers arranged for her guardianship to be transferred to her grandmother. Maryam enrolled on the charity's program of care and education, moving into their shelter in January 2012. After graduating from the programme in 2015, she began studying accounting at a vocational school and then found her dream job at an accounting firm. She is now a department head with a staff of two. Two nights per week, Maryam and a friend run a self-help group for young women who are survivors of sexual abuse.


 

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Nazanin, Mojdeh, and Maryam were enrolled in the programme of the Omid Foundation, which strengthens the social, emotional, and economic competencies of disadvantaged and abused young women in Iran. It provides them with a sense of self-worth, and with the opportunities to experience a full range of life options through self-empowerment, education and training. You can read more about them and their work at www.omidfoundation.com.