Mina (26) loved training as a midwife, but before she could receive her graduation certificate, her new husband persuaded her to sell everything to go to Iran for work, leaving behind her dreams. Once there, she found out that her husband was a drug addict – he would come home late at night and be physically abusive. When she tried to escape, he came after her. At one point, the abuse was so bad that she lost a pregnancy: “Because of his violence and threats, I lost my baby,” she says. She’d had enough. On the way to court in Tehran to file for divorce, Mina was arrested for not having legal documentation. She was deported to Afghanistan with nothing but what she was wearing, presenting with severe mental health distress and facing immediate protection risks at the border: “I could not come back to Afghanistan because my brothers said if I did, they would kill me [for leaving my husband]. I had decided [suicide] was the only option,” she says. IOM’s border team met Mina at Islam Qala border, listened to her story and provided her with overnight accommodation and transport costs to travel home safely. 

When she arrived back to Kabul, IOM’s Protection caseworker assessed Mina’s situation immediately: She was alone, without a male companion or any money, and faced risks of social exclusion, and abuse (or worse) from her own family. With her brothers still threatening her and no means of supporting herself, IOM covered her rent for the immediate term so she could have a safe place to live near her sisters’ place, and she received cash assistance to meet her basic needs and finally obtain her midwifery certificate. . Mina then secured herself a voluntary job as a midwife in a public hospital: “I am trying to gain experience to become expert and find a good job with a good salary to stand on my own feet,” she says. “IOM’s assistance gave me hope for living again.”

5 May is International Day of the Midwife. Afghanistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, and women are routinely excluded from accessing healthcare. Increased availability of trained midwives has already made a vital contribution to reducing unnecessary deaths in the past decade, but the challenge remains with an uncertain future ahead. For further information, visit: https://www.unfpa.org/events/international-day-midwife

SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities