In Bangladesh, strong social norms on gender, sexuality, high fertility, virginity and early marriage prevail. Teenage pregnancy is directly related to the common practice of child marriage and social expectations to have a child soon once married.
Thanks to a series of media and face-to-face programmes that encourage community leaders and parents to become more supportive of girls’ aspirations, thousands of girls will eventually be able to make their own decisions about their educations, bodies, marriage and motherhood.
Self awareness is key
Lamia (14 yrs) is a class eight scholar. She has two younger sisters and a younger brother. When she was in class seven, her father died. With her mother being the only family member earning money now, her family is poor.
Lamia’s dream is to become a teacher. She thought she would at least continue her studies until college. Unfortunately, her mother was having a hard time bearing both their livelihood and study cost. Struggling financially to get ends met, she was forced to make decisions how to get around. The brothers were allowed to stay in school. For Lamia however she decided to arrange marriage, since marrying off her daughter would reduce part of the financial burden.
Make sure to finish school
“I come from a family with 5 children, my 4 brothers and me. My family was very poor. Arranged marriage for me, my parents believed would pay for the education of the boys. They had me married when I was in 3rd grade (around age 10-11). After my marraige I didn’t continue in school, so I am illiterate.
I have two daughters. I used to face a lot of social pressure to marrying them off. My financial situation was not very positive because my husband died when my eldest daughter was only 6 years old. My legs were fractured in an accident which made it hard for me to work. Unfortunately my 4 brothers didn’t offer me any financial help.
During the years I received many repeated proposals of marriage to my daughters, but I rejected them all. People in the community said bad things about me because of the struggles I was facing and told me I should marry my daughters off. But I was committed that I would continue their education, no matter how much the pressure.
I bought a sewing machine and found a way to manage the expenses of my daughters’ education with sewing work. I am ensuring the protection of my girls in my own way. I tell my younger daughter to give me a missed call when she arrives home. I am committed to providing a feeling of security to her. I waited until my elder daughter had finished class 12 (around age 20) before I arranged her marriage. Now I am continuing the education of my younger daughter who is in class 9 (around age 15). I tell her: continue your education, I will do whatever I can to make sure you can finish school.”