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International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 2021

“It took us three hours to find her. She was unrecognisable. It was her who recognised us. Her face was burnt, she had so many wounds on her arms, her back and her legs, her stomach was destroyed, her heel was terrible. She was in the worst possible condition.”

She is Salima*.

On 18 May 2021, she was one of the young women targeted by a multiple bomb attack while leaving Sayed al-Shuhada school, in Kabul, Afghanistan. It left 300 people – most of them Hazara schoolgirls under 18 years of age – either injured or dead. Salima survived after 20 days of treatment at EMERGENCY’s Surgical Centre: “she had an operation on her stomach. They took out so much shrapnel from her back and her legs”.

With this vivid testimony, Salima’s uncle describes how his niece was affected by this terrible attack. But her story is just one example of the gender-based violence, both structural and direct, that so many women and girls around the world face every day.

Photo taken by Mathieu Willcocks at the Kabul Surgical Centre. The image is illustrative and is not of Salima.

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, we reaffirm the urgent need for women’s rights to be ensured.

In Salima’s words, “I hope I can go back to my lessons. I love maths so much. But we need safety, we need to be protected.”


*Salima’s name has been changed to protect her identity.