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Child marriage in Bangladesh: Empowering young girls to make informed choices

Mar 28, 2011

The Family Planning Association of Bangladesh is helping young girls in rural areas to make informed choices about their future. FPAB works in madrasah schools across the country and provides counseling, support and information to adolescent girls and their families about the perils of child marriage and early pregnancy.

"I am a girl with a choice," says Hosna, 14, who lives in Bangladesh. Her father was planning for her to get married, but with help from a UK aid funded partner, IPPF, she was able to access services, information and support to make an informed decision about her future.

The Family Planning Association of Bangladesh (FPAB), an IPPF Member Association, collaborates with community partners and provides services to support girls and end child marriage.

Through the support they provide at Hosna's school, she had a counsellor she could confide in.

"Through talking with the counsellor, my teacher and the Imam, my family have agreed to take part in a meeting with the FPAB to discuss the suffering I might face during pregnancy and the illegality of child marriage."

The challenge

Nearly 10% of all adolescent girls in low and middle income countries become mothers before they are 16.

The majority are married, like Hosna's friend Salma who married when she was 14. "She had a baby that died as soon as it was born. Salma bled a lot during the birth and she is very weak now."

Girls aged ten to 15 are five times more likely than women aged 20 to 24 to die in pregnancy and childbirth.

The FPAB is working in madrasah schools across Bangladesh. Madrasah schools offer an Islamic-focused education to poor young people.

The FPAB analysed Islamic teachings and demonstrated that they oppose dowry and child marriage, and support gender equality with regards to access to education, health care, and economic resources.

Through the FPAB’s intensive and sustained advocacy they secured the support of madrasah authorities for peer education and sexual and reproductive health services inside the madrasahs and in the wider community.

Combating violence against girls and women

Child brides are often withdrawn from school and are at risk of violence, coerced sex, dying in pregnancy and childbirth and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Islamic leaders are now using their authority to promote women’s rights within Islam. As Maolana Md. Naoshad, Imam at the Khadalbaria Mosque explains: "FPAB is explaining the reasons why women experience gender-based violence in society, how we can prevent this violence from happening and how we can help the victims of this violence. The people who are influential in the village need to be motivated first, if they understand they can influence others."

How UK aid is helping

Teenage pregnancy is the number one killer worldwide of women aged 15 to 19 years old. In 2009, IPPF prevented an estimated 1.92 million unintended pregnancies among young women (under the age of 24 years).

In Bangladesh alone, the FPAB averted 96,000 unintended pregnancies among young women. UK aid supports IPPF to help empower women and girls to choose whether, when and how many children to have, and ensuring pregnancy and child birth are safe.

Source : DFID
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