"I always cried when I heard about marriages. I am not comfortable with showing my face to visitors coming to my home with a marriage proposal. I don't want to get married so early. I want to continue my studies", says Mukti.
Early child marriage is a common practice in Meherpur, a northwestern district in Bangladesh. Meherpur girls get married at the age of 12 to 14 and thus hardly ever complete their primary school. Parents, local community and active core committee members say that
poverty and social insecurity are the main reasons for the practice child marriage which has become a part of the local culture.
Save the Children is working here with its advocacy initiatives and involving stakeholders’ local community core groups to break the culture of early marriage. Efforts are made but success is a challenge.
Mukti Khatun, (14) and like other teenage girls hopes to continue her education. She wants to spend time with her friends and fly like a butterfly.
Her dream is to become a medical doctor and serve poor people. Early child marriage would have broken all her dreams. It almost happened. Her parents almost connected her to a solvent man much senior to her.
Her parents couldn't afford her school fees of 300 Taka, they couldn't even afford three meals a day. Therefore, a marriage proposal without a dowry came as a blessing for them.
Ajim Uddin known as "local hero” from Alampur Dakhin para. He was involved with Save the Children's Nutritional and Adolescent Development activities. He is also an active member and chairman of the Village Core Committee Group, developed with the support from Sishuder Jonno program.
Save the Children trained Ajim to become a change maker to work with child development. He learnt about the consequence of a child marriage.
When Ajim heard about Mukti's marriage plans, he acted immediately. He convinced Mukti's parents to stop the marriage and promised to cover her education expenses and continue doing so until Mukti is 18.
People like Ajim who like to support the good causes of Save the Children bring positive changes to the lives of many girls like Mukti.
Shishuder Jonno's programs have now many change makers like Ajim. There are many success stories of stopping a child marriage and taking local initiatives to solve numerous challenges locally.
The success is a result of Save the Children's continuous dialogue with the community and awareness to raise issues.
The focus of Shishuder Jonno's program is to create a strong opinion against child marriages in the villages so that many adolescent girls can continue school, complete their education and become empowered women.
- Feature prepared by Save the Children in Bangladesh