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Bangladesh: how you can help a teenager get an education

Anika’s parents were delighted when they heard someone in a nearby village wanted to marry their daughter. Her future husband was handsome and polite and they couldn’t wait to start planning her wedding. But Anika wasn’t so keen ...

[Charity feature] ***Names have been changed to protect the identity of people in the story***

Anika’s parents were delighted when they heard someone in a nearby village wanted to marry their daughter.

Her future husband was handsome and polite and they couldn’t wait to start planning her wedding

But Anika wasn’t so keen.

At just 15 years old, getting married would mean she’d have to stop going to school and would face more risky pregnancies and an increased chance her own children could get seriously ill or even die.

She said: “I was so upset and frustrated. I tried to make my parents understand that I wanted to continue to study, not to marry. But there was no result. At one stage I had lost strength and cried like mad finding no way to salvage the situation.”

Anika lives in Bangladesh, which has one of the world’s highest rates of early marriage.

Young girls there are often seen as an economic burden and their marriage to another family can be one of their few options for survival.

As well as this, parents are attracted by the prospect of lower dowry payments if they marry their daughters off at an early age.

Anika also knows that remaining unmarried can attract unwanted attention in the local community.

She said: “Parents always feel insecure at keeping a young, unmarried daughter at home for a long time as crimes like eve-teasing (public sexual harassment, which can be both verbal and physical), rape and acid throwing are a regular occurrence in the society.”

But despite knowing all of this, Anika refused to give up her right to a good future.

Luckily, her friends had received training from Christian children’s charity World Vision about the dangers of child marriage.

World Vision works in communities like Anika’s across the world.

It supports communities to change attitudes by raising awareness of the harmful impact of child marriage.

World Vision also gives children and their family’s access to education and provides sustainable ways for parents to earn a living – especially in areas where money is so tight that adults, and even children themselves, often feel they have no choice but to enter into a marriage.

Anika’s friends asked a local leader, who had been trained by World Vision, to speak to Anika’s parents and explain the physical and mental effects of early marriage, as well as the legal consequences.

At last, Anika got the answer she’d been looking for:

“After a long argument, finally my parents and relatives decided to refuse the marriage proposal. Then we called the groom's family and forfeited the marriage.”

Thanks to support from her friends and World Vision, Anika is now back at school where she dreams of becoming a nurse.

As well as stopping her own wedding, she has helped save two other girls from an early marriage.

She hopes one day to marry a man who believes, like her, in the importance of education and helping to improve society.

Sponsoring a girl like Anika through World Vision provides them and their community with education and support to empower them to take a stand against child marriage. Find out more by calling (UK) 0800 012 1206 or go to www.worldvision.org.uk/bride

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