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It takes a village to stop child marriage

Community members in Hatibandha are opposing early marriage.

Mothers stand in front of a billboard promoting girls’ education and raising awareness of the dangers of early marriage.

One of the most important ways for Hatibandha to build a brighter future for everyone is to stop the practice of child marriage.

Nearly all girls here are married by the time they are 19, many of them as young teenagers. They must abandon their education, and soon become pregnant. Isolated, uneducated, with no skills to earn a living, these young mothers struggle just to keep their children alive.

Challenging the status quo

There are many ways that we’re working with Hatibandha to combat child marriage and keep girls and families on track to a better life.

Through gender initiatives and educational programs, girls are getting the chance to build skills, overcome barriers, and raise their status in the community.

But early marriage has a long tradition here, and its own logic for families responding to conditions of extreme poverty, and challenging that tradition is a big part of the development process. That’s why we have community workshops, meetings and other forms of dialogue and engagement underway. We need to get understanding and buy in from everyone — parents, community leaders, village court members, elders and religious leaders — to build the kind of concerted, community-wide effort needed to stop child marriage.

A better path forward

Happily, the result of recent efforts is a community action plan that has been broadly championed by community leaders, which includes:

  • A commitment to work together to reduce child marriage
  • A call for engagement on the issue at all community meetings
  • Monthly PTA meetings at local schools to increase awareness among parents
  • New marriage requirements for verification of National ID cards and Birth Registration certificates
  • A commitment to take legal action if any child marriage occurs.

Already, attitudes are shifting, and in the case of Mohamed, one local father, they are changing decisively.

“I have realized that girls are not burdens, they can contribute to society,” Mohamed says. “So I have admitted my daughter to an honours course at college. Now I am happy that she is going to complete her degree.”

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