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Stories – Stories worldwide

Combatting stereotypes and stigma

This Changemaker Photo Story is produced in close cooperation with Red Orange Media & Communications Bangladesh. Photographers: Sabuj Miah and Md. Nafiul Hasan

I will educate my girl. That will be the best security for her.
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Brazendra is a farmer in a village surrounded by jungle. Sometimes he works in a factory for additional income. He and his wife Malti Rani have five children.

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The trouble in Brazendra’s life is not poverty, or disease, or bureaucracy. His fight is with gender stereotypes and stigmas, social norms that say girls do not belong in school after a certain age.

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Shilpi, Brazendra’s youngest daughter is the talk of the town. He has to go against his own community because of her. Shilpi however, did not commit any crime; she just wanted to complete her studies before getting married.

Hello I am - Combatting Stereotypes

Most girls in the village get married off by the family at the age of 13 or 14. When a girl doesn’t follow this custom and when a father supports her in her decision, they are judged negatively.

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Among his five children, Shilpi being the one and only girl child has always faced social stigmas. Brazendra’s four sons have found their own ways of living and stay separately in the village.

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Brazendra’s neighbours tell him to come to his senses:

You don’t know what will come of it, you have to end this stupidity. Educating your daughter will not protect her in the future.
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Parents will do their best to protect their daughters. A good reputation is essential in order to arrange a good marriage and a good future for her. Marriage is traditionally seen as all the social and financial security a daughter needs to be safe and secure.

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Father Hatem Ali

Brazendra took a different course.

I will educate my girl. That will be the best security for her.

Brazendra’s optimistic mindset and determination caught the attention of Hello, I Am, the programme working to challenge gender norms, breaking harmful practices such as child marriage.

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The village surrounded by fields and forests, provides many opportunities to hide away and harass girls on their way to school.

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Like many other girls Shilpi got harassed on her way to school. For most fathers this would be enough to take their daughters out of school and marry her off. To protect her safety and her reputation.

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I have seen girls being married at an early age. I have seen them going through the hardest phase of life after that. I didn’t want my daughter to suffer in the name of protection and solution.

Brazendra found like-minded people in the Hello, I am parent meetings. This gave him even more confidence to support his daughter to complete her studies.

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Brazendra continued supporting his daughter in her wish to continue school. Even though his earnings were modest, and the neighbours kept judging him, he would not give up.

Hello, I Am staff uses his story to inspire other parents in the village to educate their daughters and change their “marriage is the solution to every problem” mindset.

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Hello I am - Combatting Stereotypes

Shilpi never thought of quitting either. Knowing her father’s struggle to keep her in school, she planned to earn her living by teaching students.

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The hard work and determination of father and daughter paid off. Shilpi is now in one of the best universities of the country. The village is still judgmental about her choice, saying she badly needs to get married. But Shilpi is a student of a well-established institution; for Brazendra and Shilpi this is victory.


Hello, I Am was a 4-year programme working toward a supportive social environment in which young people in Bangladesh, especially adolescent girls and young women, can make informed choices about and enjoy their sexual and reproductive health and rights. It aims to realize a society in which girls and boys are equal, where girls and women have the same rights and chances as boys and men. The programme is led by Rutgers and implemented in collaboration with PSTC, RHSTEP, DSK and BBC Media Action Bangladesh.

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