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Bangladeshi mothers take stand against child marriage

Jul 19, 2012

Women in Bangladesh, who had to face child marriage themselves are fighting against the practice as active members of their local village community organisation in Gazipur village supported by Plan International.

Now in her 60s, single mother Ami Zan has experienced child marriage first hand. Today, she and her eldest daughter fight back against the practice as active members of their local village community organisation in Gazipur, central Bangladesh.


Plan supports groups like these, which undertake many activities, some of them related to child marriage. The members visit families in the community, especially those with teenage daughters or sons, and discuss the downside of early marriage with them.

This is Ami’s story, in her own words:

I was married at the age of 13 and I became a mother to my son at the age of 14. My husband was 30 years old when we married. I didn’t want to give my first daughter in marriage, but economic circumstances forced me to. My husband had been sick for two years and we were very, very poor. I had to give her away when she was 14 as we could not afford to keep her.

I won’t do the same with my second daughter. She is now 20. She’s just completed 12th grade. She has 1 more exam to sit and then she will have completed secondary education. A girl should not be married until she is physically ready to become a mother.

When I got married and lived the life of a wife, it resulted in bad health. I couldn’t finish my exams. I dreamt of being an undergraduate student, but the dream never came true. I had to do a lot of work immediately after I got married. I accepted it because I had to do my duty to look after my husband’s family.

There was mental pressure on me as well. My parents were not badly off, but it was not the same for my husband’s side.

The brighter side

Now, I am very active in the community. I’m a member of the village development committee. Most of us are women. We have a lot of activities and some of them relate to child marriage. We have visited a lot of families, especially those with teenage daughters or sons, and discussed the bad side of early marriage with them.

We’ve counselled families who were planning on marrying their children before the legal age. We concentrate on the bridegroom’s side. We try and stop the marriage from happening through them first. We always encourage the bride’s family to let her complete her education before marriage.

There’s been resistance of course. It’s not easy. If families can get their son to marry a teenage girl, they can easily control her emotions and decisions. If the boy marries a literate woman, the girl will start judging what is right and wrong. That’s not acceptable for the boy’s family. We have had bad arguments sometimes and had to get support from others – like head teachers and the local council.

I ran as a candidate in the last election. Before he died, my husband actually encouraged me to get involved in politics.

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