Jamila, a 42-year-old mother of two, lives in the Rangpur District.
Despite a difficult economic situation and increasing pressure from her community to arrange a marriage for her 14-year-old daughter, Jamila prioritized her daughter’s education over marriage.
What her peers didn’t know was that Jamila was actively working to change the societal norms about early marriage in her community. Jamila’s courage stemmed from her own experience of being married at a young age and she was determined to create a different future for her daughter.
Jamila’s determination was tested when a group of boys began harassing her daughter Shumi.
Jamila and her husband spoke to the boys’ parents about their behavior, but the situation remained unchanged, which resulted in Shumi being forced to stay home from school for a few days. This absence only increased the boys’ interest in her daughter. When she returned to school, the boys continued to harass her and began to follow Shumi wherever she went.
Early marriage is often considered a means of guaranteeing security for adolescent girls, as it is believed that a husband can protect the girl from harm.
To ensure their daughter’s safety, Jamila and her husband made the difficult decision to remove Shumi from school and began looking for a groom and making the arrangements for their daughter’s marriage.
It was during this time that Jamila’s neighbor asked her to join an informational session being held by the Advancing Adolescent Health (A2H) project.
Jamila’s first meeting was a parent’s orientation session.
“That orientation session was eye-opening for me! I got to know how child marriage can completely destroy my daughter’s life. I learned about the health risks of early marriage and early pregnancy. Even that a girl may die due to pregnancy complications. Suddenly, I felt being a mother, how can I put my daughter at risk when we thought marrying her would give her security?”
After attending the meeting, Jamila decided that she would not allow her daughter to marry early.
“I never want my daughter to go through the same struggle that I faced due to early marriage and early pregnancy. No matter how difficult the situation is, I will never let my daughter marry at this early age. If needed, I am ready to fight with my family and society. Of course, my daughter will continue her studies—even if I have to accompany her on her way to and from school. I will always be on her side for her proper growth. This is my promise as a mother.”
Jamila signed the pledge to stop early marriage and she encouraged her fellow group members to follow her lead. Referring to her own experience Jamila said, “Parents need to know what is best for their children. Ensuring the security of our children is—of course—an issue for parents. But letting our daughter marry early for that? No! Child marriage is never a solution. Rather, it is the destruction of our daughter’s life!”
Like Jamila, thousands of parents in Rangpur have been receiving orientation on the adverse effects of early marriage and pregnancy. The USAID/Bangladesh-funded A2H project has been working to improve the health and well-being of adolescents by changing community attitudes regarding adolescent sexual and reproductive health and helping parents understand their role and rights in protecting their adolescent children.