At the age of 14 and without any warning, Rima’s parents arranged for her to be married to a 20-year-old man from her community. Although they lived near one another, they were strangers until their wedding day.
While Rima’s friends attended school, Rima’s was not in school and her future seemed uncertain. She was worried about becoming pregnant.
Although her marriage was outside of her control, she had a secret.
Rima had already learned about the dangers of early pregnancy and the effects that it could have on her and her unborn children. Her cousins also taught her about contraception.
Rima summoned her strength and attempted to convince her husband to use contraception in order to manage the timing and size of their family, but he was unwilling to listen. This was further complicated by pressure from her in-laws to have a child right away.
Rima felt alone, scared, and unsure of her future. During this time, she learned about a new project that was being implemented in her community, the Advancing Adolescent Health (A2H) project.
Funded by USAID/Bangladesh and implemented by Plan International Bangladesh, the project creates community life skills platforms for adolescents, between the ages of 10–14 to learn about adolescent, sexual, and reproductive health (ASRH), and increases access to local adolescent-friendly health services.
Rima met with an A2H Community Facilitator who encouraged her to join a community platform. As a married young woman, she would normally be barred from joining an activity with her unmarried peers, but A2H offers sessions for married adolescents to address their specific questions and challenges.
Rima bravely shared her story of early marriage, pregnancy, and how she was under pressure to grow her family. She spoke about her fears of having children at her age and her frustration with trying to convince her husband to use contraception. The Community Facilitator, who initially encouraged her participation in A2H, took her support of Rima to the next level. She accompanied Rima to her in-laws’ home to speak with her husband and family. She provided Rima and her husband with referral slips and linked them with the health services provider at the local community clinic. Rima’s husband agreed to accompany her to the clinic and was willing to learn about the family planning options available to them. They learned about the implications of early child birth and unhealthy birth spacing and the importance of maintaining the mother’s health for her current and future children. The confidential counseling offered to them by the clinic also allowed them to freely inquire about using contraceptives and debunk the myths they had been told by their family and friends.
Rima is now 15. She and her husband decided to wait to get pregnant until Rima turns 20. They regularly use modern family planning methods. Moreover, Rima has returned to school with the full support of her husband, who is focused on opening a grocery store to support his family.
“What we want, when our child is born, is that they may get to live a good life. All our hard work is for that. Any unplanned step[s] can destroy all of our plans for the future. Now that we are aware about the importance of family planning, we are using contraception methods regularly. We believe the best way of prevention is protection,” Rima says.