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©VSO/Georgie Scott

Stopping child marriage in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has the world's fourth highest rate of children entering into forced ‘marriages’.

Early evidence suggests that VSO volunteer-led peer education and awareness raising activities in the rural northwest of the country are empowering youth to stand up for their sexual health and rights by resisting early marriage.

The power of youth

Young people from the UK and Bangladesh taking part in VSO’s International Citizen Service global youth volunteering programme organised ‘courtyard sessions’ in Durgapur village, together with a local youth club.

Issues tackled included the negative impacts of early marriage, with a particular focus on the risks to health of young girls and legal protection for child rights.

Young girl in Bangladesh ©VSO

Shapla, 14, who was supported by ICS and a local youth club to resist being married off to a 37-year-old man

Among those in attendance was Shapla, a 14-year-old girl, who went on to testify to the positive influence the intervention had in helping her convince her father to halt her early marriage to a 37-year-old man.

I attended some sessions out of curiosity and didn’t realise whether they are useful or not. But when it matched with my own life, I realised that I have learnt a lot. The youth club members helped me in convincing my parents. I am happy now as I am going to school and continuing my study. Dhonnobad [thank you] VSO.” 

Bringing issues into the open

VSO ICS team in Durgapur, Bangladesh ©VSO/Farah Moriam

The VSO ICS team in Durgapur, Bangadesh

Youth volunteer Shamil Makecha says that the responses of elders in the community to the informal sessions was “overwhelmingly positive.”

“I think it’s to the credit of our volunteers that they gave them the space to raise questions in this environment. Our research found an awareness of these issues, but no forum to talk about them. We found it is possible to make child marriage a community matter.”

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