I am Meghla from Bangladesh. I am a member of the Child & Youth Forum of World Vision Bangladesh. I am very committed to advocating for an end to child marriage, particularly for the girls who are the victims of child marriage in my community.
In the area where I live, we conducted child-led research and found that 40 per cent of girls aged between 10 and 16 years old who get married before they are 18. This is becoming a significant child rights concern in our society.
The Child & Youth Forum is a big platform for us where we can express our views and problems and raise our voice against sexual abuse and violence against children. We advocate for change with our community through awareness-raising campaigns to protect children from child marriage. We are united by a committee, which includes teachers, children and people from the community. We also have a good collaboration with the local police.
I joined the Child Forum when I was 13 years old. I have participated in many training sessions and workshops that helped me to be aware of the negative impact of child marriage and I am now very committed to stopping it. Based on the things I have learned, I have undertaken awareness raising with my community people to spread our messages.
In the last 18 months, we, the member of child forum, stopped 13 child marriage cases. I managed to stop two child marriage by talking to the families and convincing them not to force their daughters to get married. These are big achievements that we are very proud of as a forum.
I was also due to marry and I am happy that I was able to stop my own marriage. When I was 13, my mother forced me to get married to a man aged 30 who was living abroad. I didn’t know the man and not even my mother knew him I did not want to get married, and I was interested in continuing my education. Despite this, my mother fixed the date for the wedding without my consent. I tried to convince my mother to stop it, but I could not manage to convince her. Finally, on the day of my wedding, I ran away from my house and took shelter in one of my friend’s house. I came back home later and my mother stopped talking to me. This situation lasted three months then she realized that she was not right and we restored our relationship.
As a forum, the approach we take to stop marriage is to talk to the parents, to convince them that child marriage is bad for the girls. If it doesn’t work, then we go to police station with the help of the community people. But sometimes this work is not easy for us. We have received threats from the parents and others in the community.
As an example, one of my friends was going to be a victim of child marriage. We got this information just two hours before her marriage. I, with other Child Forum members, rushed to the police station, as we didn’t have much time to convince the family. And finally, after many attempts, we were able to stop her marriage with the help of the police officers.
In Bangladesh, we have the Child Rights Act, which is a law that prohibits child marriage but there is no proper implementation of this act. One of the big reasons for child marriage is poverty. Due to inadequate income, the parents are not able to afford their child’s education. Another contributing factor is that due to social insecurity, parents feel unsafe to keep adolescent girls at home without marrying them. Due to the lack of social awareness, parents and community people remain unaware of the adverse effect of child marriage.
Another reason is that people doe not have enough awareness of the consequences of child marriage and there is also a big need to invest more in child rights, child development, girls’ education and girls’ empowerment.
This is the time to pay attention to girl’s education, to make community people aware and to protect children from sexual abuse and violence. We would like to enjoy our childhood and we would like to see our society become a place where no girls will be the victim of any abuses including child marriage. We want to live our lives with freedom.