“I want to inspire young girls to take charge of their own future. We can do what men do. We can provide for our families. And I believe education is the best way to secure our future.”
This is the story of Ina. Ina goes from door to door, speaking to young girls and their families. In Bangladesh, many girls have limited education and get married very young. Many parents believe that marriage is a good opportunity for young daughters. In her fight against prejudice, Ina promotes awareness on education for girls and equal rights for girls and boys.
Child marriage is not rare in Bangladesh. Half of all women up to the age of 25 are married before the age of 18, according to UNICEF. That translates to 38 million child brides, women who got married before the age of 18. Of these child brides, 13 million were married before the age of 15. Teenage pregnancy is common consequence of child marriage, and so is school drop-out. Married girls are four times more likely to drop out of school, compared to unmarried girls.
Ina is a changemaker among girls and young women. At 22 years of age, she is studying for her graduation. She convinces girls to raise their voices and create an equal society, where girls and boys are treated equally, regardless of their gender.
“It is my dream to live in a world free of child marriage."”
Ina’s mother was a child bride herself. Ina witnessed her young mother struggling while growing up. At school, two of her friends got married off as children as well. They both had miscarriages. The sadness inspired Ina to take action against child marriage.
Ina’s mother encourages her efforts for the prevention of child marriage. She doesn’t want her daughter to suffer the way she did. Ina is happy with the support of her mother.
“We need the support of our elders to break out of traditional norms."”
The experiences in her life inspired Ina to raise her voice and take up the challenge of preventing child marriage. The Hello, I am programme helps her to do what is so important to her.
Ina attended training and courtyard meetings, and she joined multiple activities of the programme.
Ina has prevented many child marriages, with support from Hello, I am. This is a true achievement in a community where people believe that the sooner a girl gets married, the better. Ina realized that education can help bring about positive change. That is why she started to teach the children in her community.
Many people in Ina’s community have little education and strong perceptions of what girls and women should do in their lives to be considered good girls. Therefore, convincing people to resist child marriage is a challenging task. Ina did that with her will power, courage and the knowledge she acquired from Hello, I am meetings.
Ina is a school-teacher. She provides for her family, defying the traditional patriarchal custom that only men can do this. Meanwhile, she continues her education.
She dreams of becoming a government official. In a society where one’s gender determines one’s future, Ina has set an example by breaking stereotypes.
Today, many girls from her community have been inspired by her activism. Several of these empowered girls started working together to stop early marriage in their communities.
“Many parents think their daughters are a so called burden. When you avoid child marriage and focus on their education, it relieves the family’s burden. Education is key!"”
Hello, I Am was a four-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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