Sixty-six percent of girls in Bangladesh are married before they turn 18, an astonishingly high rate. A number of programs are aimed at curbing that trend. We’d like to call your attention to two that rely largely on the power of young people themselves to change their own destinies.
The first is a club sponsored by Plan Bangladesh. The club members—called Wedding Busters—literally jump into action when they learn that a child marriage is being planned. They go right to the parents of the bride, explaining that marriage before 18 is not only illegal but dangerous to their daughter’s health and disastrous for her education. They can appeal to adults within the community for additional help if need be, but often, their arguments are convincing on their own. We learned about the program through Girls Not Brides.
The second is an effort led by BRAC—Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee—an NGO that focuses on creating opportunities for the world’s poor. Its SoFEA program (Social and Financial Empowerment for Adolescents) sponsors clubs for girls between the ages of 11 and 21. Members meet about three times a week and learn life skills and financial literacy. In a sense, the program helps them understand their own self-worth so they can become their own strongest advocates. We learned of this program through the International Center for Research on Women.