An inclusive, sensitive project is teaching Bangladeshi girls and families why they should avoid child marriage and find other ways to provide for themselves.
When Shumi’s family decided to arrange her marriage to a man she’d never met, they did so with the best intentions. The 15-year-old comes from a very poor part of Sylhet, north-east Bangladesh, where early marriage is often seen as the best way to secure a child’s future. Shumi, however, was appalled by the idea. “I wanted to study,” she says. “I asked my neighbour, Jasmin, to make my parents understand.” Nineteen-year-old Jasmin had recently been trained as a community peer leader through our Suchana project, which helps families across Sylhet deal with issues surrounding child marriage. She knew that getting married too young can prevent girls from having a job or any control over their lives.
Babies born to adolescents are also more likely to suffer from malnutrition
46% of Sylhet children have stunted growth due to poor nutrition. “We went to Shumi’s family and told them,” says Jasmin, a smart, charismatic young woman. “It’s important people know.” Confronted by the facts, Shumi’s father, Atique, an agricultural worker was reluctantly persuaded. He explains that when he arranged the marriage he was “thinking of my family. Stopping it was an emotional decision. But I want my daughter to be happy in all respects and I will support her education.” Shumi was delighted. “I want to become a great human being,” she says. As well as helping girls like Shumi, Suchana staff and community volunteers run information groups on healthy eating and hygiene, with a particular focus on toddlers and babies, many of whom have very young mothers. Our health workers treat children for malnutrition and we lobby governments to allocate more funding for nutrition programmes.
The project is helping bring Jasmin and her family out of poverty
The project, which reached more than 136,000 families in 2018, also provides training on crop cultivation and fish farming. It even supplies people with ducks to rear, to help them make a living. Jasmin and her community grow crops in flood-proof “sack gardens”, following project staff’s guidance. “Before, we didn’t know how to protect crops in the rainy season,” she says. “My family used to buy fish from the market, but now we breed and sell them,” Jasmin continues. “I want to establish our pond so we come out of poverty.” Shumi, meanwhile, helps Atique tend to his vegetable garden, grown from Suchana seeds, “to build a beautiful life”, as she puts it. “I dream about my future,” she adds. “I want to work on issues like nutrition and child marriage and support my parents. I push my younger sister, Shuma, to study too.”
Thanks to your support, we’re helping girls all over the world become educated, independent and resilient. We’re making sure they play central roles in creating successful, bright futures for their communities.