Indian-American Offering to Pay a Lender Who Took an Afghan Woman’s 3-year-old Daughter in Exchange for a $550 Debt She Couldn’t Pay, Joins the Tent Coalition for Afghan Refugees

hands, cohesion, together

Afghan parents are forced to sell their children to deal with poverty, the Wall Street Journal reports. Desperate to feed her family, Saleha, a housecleaner in western Afghanistan, has incurred such an insurmountable debt the only way she sees out is to hand over her 3-year-old daughter, Najiba, to the man who lent her the money. The debt is $550.

Saleha, a 40-year-old mother of six, earns 70 cents a day cleaning homes in a wealthier neighborhood of Herat. Her much older husband doesn’t have any work. Such is the starkness of deepening poverty in Afghanistan. This humanitarian crisis is worsening fast after the Taliban seized power on August 15.

They have three months to provide the money. Otherwise, Najiba will be doing household work in the lender’s home and be married off to one of his three sons when she reaches puberty. They are not sure which one. The oldest is now 6. “If life continues to be this awful, I will kill my children and myself,” said Saleha, speaking in her tiny two-room home. “I don’t even know what we will eat tonight.” 

“I will try to find money to save my daughter’s life,” added her husband, Abdul Wahab. The lender, Khalid Ahmad, confirmed he had made the offer to the couple. “I also don’t have money. They haven’t paid me back,” said Mr. Ahmad, reached by phone in Badghis. “So, there is no option but to take the daughter.”

Social Entrepreneur Sunil “Sunny” Tolani reached out to WSJ, offering to pay the $550 so Saleha could get her child back. “I was outraged that a 3-year-old Afghan girl was traded to a man because her mom couldn’t afford a $550 debt. “

“If we can give this family their daughter back this Diwali season, we will be blessed,” wrote Tolani. “Everything is hard, but nothing is impossible.” 

As the U.S. welcomes tens of thousands of refugees fleeing Afghanistan, companies announced that they would join the Tent Coalition for Afghan Refugees, pledging to help create economic opportunities for Afghans as they start their new lives in America.

The new coalition is spearheaded by the Tent Partnership for Refugees, a network of over 180 global businesses integrating refugees. As part of this new commitment, some of America’s biggest employers and IHG Franchises will create job opportunities and provide training and other resources to help Afghans better integrate into the American economy — a fundamental component for Afghans’ successful resettlement in the U.S.

“America is at a critical juncture, and every part of our society must play its part to welcome our Afghan brothers and sisters. They have stood by our side, and we must stand by theirs,” said Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder and CEO of Chobani and Founder of the Tent Partnership for Refugees.

“I am so proud of the businesses stepping up today — and hope that many more will join our coalition. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again — the moment a refugee gets a job, it’s the moment they stop being a refugee. It’s the moment they can stand on their own two feet; it’s the moment they can make new friends; it’s the moment they can start a new life.”

The 33 companies span sectors from tech to retail and from food service to consulting and hotels — showing the broad swath of support for Afghan refugees among the business community and the diversity of job opportunities that will be offered. As part of our diverse workforce, Prince Organization continually hires immigrants and refugees across the company, and we’re proud to partner with Tent to extend our reach,” said Sunny Tolani, CEO of Prince.

LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum seekers are fleeing their countries because of who they are and who they love. Partnering with Tent and the business community on this initiative will meaningfully impact the lives of countless LGBTQ+ refugees.

Supporting at-risk Afghans is an issue Americans agree upon. A recent poll found that an overwhelming majority — 81% — feel the U.S. should help Afghans who worked with our troops. In addition, a bipartisan group of governors, from Utah to Arkansas, to Colorado, have been outspoken about welcoming Afghans into their communities.

As part of the whole nation’s effort in support of Afghan refugees, the Tent Coalition for Afghan Refugees partners with Welcome.US, a national initiative to engage and mobilize all Americans to welcome and support Afghan refugees. The coalition also supports the U.S. Government’s long-term vision of economic and social integration.