“Being single is my choice” - a story of Gulnaz Mammadli
Azerbaijani single mother
Gulnaz lives in Balaken, one of the northernmost regions of Azerbaijan, bordering Georgia. Her life is full of struggles: first she fought for her child, who was to be born out of wedlock and without a father, and then the struggle began for a happy future for her son. Now Gulnaz is fighting for his work and recognition.
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Child born out of wedlock
According to Gulnaz, she came to Baku from Balakan in 2000 to continue her education. However, having entered the paid department of the university, she abandoned the idea of studying.
“I stayed in Baku and started working. My parents lived in the region, and I rented a room with students.
I worked for several years, met a young man. A relationship began that lasted over two years.
I got pregnant. The young man and his family did not accept this course of events. He offered to have an abortion, but I refused.
Gulnaz says that she offered the future father of her child to at least register the marriage, but he refused to do it. She recalls the most difficult days of her life as follows:
“In the months of pregnancy, absolutely everyone turned away from me. In those years, I was a member of the NIDA civil movement. I told them about my problem, I had nowhere to go, I no longer worked. And while relatives and strangers turned away from me, those whom I did not know before began to help me.
According to statistics, every seventh child in Azerbaijan is born outside the wedlock.
In 2020, 17,714 children were born outside the wedlock and this figure is on the rise. Thus, in the 1980s, about 42,000 children were born annually from extramarital affairs in Azerbaijan. In the 2010s, this figure increased almost six times to 250,000.
But this indicator shows not the popularity of open relationships, but an increase in the number of early marriages. The vast majority of children born from extramarital affairs are in families in which girls marry before reaching the age of majority.
“Not everyone has to become a professor”
“They say that all girls dream of their wedding, henna [pre-wedding ritual in Azerbaijan, a kind of bachelorette party – JAMnews], wedding dress. I never had such desires. I imagined family life as a mutual understanding of two people, their efforts in the name of a happy future for themselves and their children.
For example, when I moved from my father’s house to Baku, there were big changes in my outlook. Is it possible without marriage and all that. People don’t have to get married to live together”, says Gulnaz.
According to her, like all mothers, she hoped for a good future for her child:
“The past years, the experience I gained taught me that not every mother is a good mother. I want my son to grow up to be a good person – educated, one that doesn’t hurt people.
But she never put pressure on her son because of grades at school. Not everyone is required to become professors, doctors, engineers. The world also needs painters, cooks, hairdressers, and so on.
The main thing is for him to be fair, not to discriminate against anyone, not to judge people for their appearance, for the choices they make. I try not to make the same mistakes our parents made when raising us”.
In 2021, 80,646 teenagers graduated from secondary schools in Azerbaijan.
In the same year, 44,861 people entered universities. Among them are also graduates of previous years and graduated from technical colleges. At the same time, graduates enter universities not only in their own country, but also abroad.
Thus, slightly more than half of secondary school graduates in Azerbaijan become university students.
“It is my choice not to have a man around”
Gulnaz Mammadli says she does not feel lonely:
“If there is no man around, this is my choice. Mom always says that you need to get married while the child is small, that someone will look after me. I do not think that a woman should be looked after by someone. I myself will be enough for me and my child.
Although the family turned away from me during the pregnancy, a little later the connection began to improve. When my son was two years old, I returned to my father’s house.
Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, if there is no person who will support you and will have a positive impact, it is better to be alone. No one wants toxic people.
Many men in Azerbaijan like to interfere in the affairs of women, but I love my freedom. I know my life, I know what, where and how to do. Maybe that’s why I don’t let anyone into my life. I am happy with my son, mother and father”.
Gulnaz says that she had to endure problems with her brother after she decided to return to her father’s house. But these problems became an incentive for her to go about her business:
“Most of all the problems were with my brother, because of the “question of honor”. To get away from problems, I began to look for a hobby. I watched a video about crafts. Gradually I learned to do this myself and now I have my own business.
Although there were problems with finances, I managed to save up for the necessary equipment. I started making some things, showed them to people, many liked it. I thought, if I can do this, why not turn this hobby into a business?
In Balaken, where I live, it is impossible to sell such things, I come to exhibitions in Baku. My crafts sell well, there is a demand, there are orders. Before the pandemic, everything was fine.
I have buyers from Belgium, Norway, Germany. There are even pre-orders. But coming to Baku, staying there in hostels – all this is expensive and unprofitable. But it still works”.
“Alimony is my child’s right”
“The main problem now is that the father of my child does not want to pay child support, he hasn’t paid it for a long time. He even declared in court that the child was not his. I had to turn to DNA analysis, which confirmed his paternity. My lawyer helped me with this.
Alimony is my child’s right.
At the age of 3, my son underwent open heart surgery. His father didn’t even show up. He does not take part in his life. I’m just asking for child support. But for this I need to contact a lawyer.
All this time, the lawyer provided me with services completely free of charge, but I myself will not be able to pay for it.
So far, this is my only problem. If I have money, I can advertise my page on the Internet, advertise my crafts, I would buy the missing tools and materials. I have a lot of ideas, I also want to master interior design”, says Gulnaz.