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A vow to end child marriage

A wedding should be a day filled with joy and celebration. But when the bride is under 18, she is at risk of being pulled from school to face dangers like domestic abuse and early pregnancy.

You’re helping change this fate.

Thanks to community sponsors like you, and the dedicated efforts of community members, 3 child marriages were stopped in the last 3 months alone.

This is the result of a three-step process that is changing the lives of girls in Hatibandha. Read on to find out how your Community Sponsorship is helping eliminate child marriage, encouraging community members to instead say “I do” to protecting children and supporting girls’ education.

Step 1: Youth participation

“The girl children of today are women and mothers of tomorrow,” explains Anil, Head Teacher of a local high school. “We must establish rights, ensuring security and prosperous futures for each and every child in society.”

A teacher sits and reads with her students in front of an “end child marriage” sign.

A teacher leads a reading group in front of signs aimed at ending child marriage and promoting school enrollment.

The Youth Network group, made up of about 20 youth of equal numbers boys and girls, meets 4 times a year to partake in day-long workshops.

At their most recent meeting, they decided to collect the status of child marriages from across their community. After compiling this information, they presented it to the Chairman of the local Union Council, inspiring the council to provide further support for ending the practice and empowering youth.

“We are the next leaders of this country, so please do something for our future development and stop child marriage,” says Rashida, a concerned 14-year-old. “We want to continue our education to become ideal leaders for our society.”

Two girls place pieces of paper in a box.

Girls use the opinion box at their school, giving them an opportunity to anonymously contribute their thoughts or report concerns.

“With this network, I learned more and became confident. Now I am working to rescue children from vulnerability and protect children with the support of the council,” explained an inspired Reetu, 13.

Step 2: Formal action

“Child marriage is an alarming issue in our society,” shared Mr. Ramzan, an inspector for the Hatibandha police station. “It is all our responsibility to protect the children from this kind of curse.”

Thanks to awareness efforts – made possible by you – local leaders on the council knew that they had to make deliberate changes within their system. You supported a day-long workshop on why and how to stop child marriage, involving local law enforcement, teachers and religious leaders.

“I did not know about the reporting and responding mechanisms of child marriage,” confided Mr. Rahman, a local police officer. “It was helpful for me to be informed.”

Together, they devised a formal action plan, enacting new regulations:

  • It is now mandatory that birth registration cards be presented prior to all marriage ceremonies.
  • Incidences of child marriage will be reported to police for further investigation, then escalated for legal action.
  • Discussions on child marriage will be continued in every formal and informal community meeting to keep focus on the issue.
  • Monthly parent-teacher meetings will be arranged at schools to increase accountability.

“From now on the marriage register will sit on the council permanently, so child marriage will be reduced radically. I would like to thank community sponsors for working with this challenging issue,” added Hazrat, President of the Youth Network.

A group of about ten women stand with their children in front of an end child marriage sign and all raise their hands.

Mothers and children stand firm in front of a school enrollment campaign sign, raising their hands in support of stopping child marriage and encouraging class attendance.

“Today I feel confident that girls have equal opportunity in all spheres of life,” shares a local mother. “We should give more attention to their development. I have one daughter and am determined to continue her education as far as she can.”

Step 3: Marching forward with awareness

Now that the community has united in their stand against child marriage, they’re taking important steps in the right direction. And, in celebration of International Day of the Girl on October 11, they came together to publically announce their new collective vow.

The theme of the day was, “A safe environment for girl children will make Bangladesh’s future prosperous,” and crowds of people took to the streets in support.

Through your sponsorship, about 300 children wore paper crowns and led a huge rally, marching alongside parents and teachers with banners in support of equality.

Children wear paper crowns, play musical instruments and hold banners against child marriage, while a man with a microphone speaks to a crowd.

Children are aware of their rights, including their right to be heard – and they’re making sure it happens across Hatibandha!
Here, they take an encouraging route, holding signs that state: “Education shows me the path to a beautiful future.”

Over 550 parents also formally pledged their commitment, by each signing a cloth banner that declared: “We are committed to eradicate child marriage, prevent child abuse and ensure education for girl children in our society.”

A group of local men march wearing paper crowns and holding an anti-child marriage banner.

Local men are committed to promoting gender equality and protecting the rights of girls.
(Sign reads: “Children will build a golden country if given the chance”)

Unveiling a new era

Today, changes for girls’ rights and gender equality are happening in very real ways across Hatibandha – protecting childhoods and ensuring children are engaged in education, not marriage.

“Child marriage has been reduced in the community,” says Ms. Khatun, a member of the Union Council who’s proud to be part of ending early walks down the aisle and opening up more promising paths for girls.

It’s an exciting development that marks a huge shift for not only the community of Hatibandha and its families, but for the whole country. By investing in girls and their futures, Hatibandha, Bangladesh is well on its way to marking a new promising age for all.

A group of about ten girls stand outside their school dormitory, smiling.

Now see how you’re support is continuing to help Sabina excel.

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