This is the story of Sufia, a young girl who ran away from home to avoid her own wedding. She was afraid of getting married, afraid to have to leave school. However, her parents were determined to get her married as soon as possible.
“I was only 13 when they told me about the marriage proposal. I decided to run away from home."”
When Sufia ran away, the marriage couldn’t take place. Unfortunately her parents didn’t change their minds. They kept putting pressure on Sufia to get married.
In Sufia’s society, marriage is considered very important for girls and women, as it provides social standing and financial security. Most families have to pay dowry to marry their daughters off. The older the girls get, the higher the dowry.
Sufia has three sisters. Two of them were already married off at a very young age.
Despite the pressure to get married, Sufia managed to convince her parents to let her stay in school. They let her complete secondary education. But to start her higher secondary education, she knew she had to find a new way to persuade her parents all over again.
Sufia worked out a solution. Even though she was young, she started tutoring and earnt money from it. She understood from an early age that her income would ultimately mean economic independence.
“When I started contributing to my family, the scenario changed. I found my own voice. My opinions were prioritized."”
Still, it was a struggle to find work and earn enough money. It took her three years before she was able to start her higher secondary education.
It was at this higher secondary education that she was introduced to the Hello, I Am programme. Here she learnt child marriage is actually illegal, can have negative consequences for a girl’s health and often leads to girls dropping out of school. Sufia developed an interest to work as a community volunteer.
Today, Sufia is a successful community volunteer, working on preventing child marriage and creating awareness among the people of her community.
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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