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Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, with 20% of girls becoming wives before their 15th birthday, even though 18 is the minimum age allowed by law.
It's a practice still rife in Bangladesh despite being illegal. Some call it modern day slavery. Child brides drop out of school and are rarely allowed to work. Often they become victims of domestic violence.
They lose their childhood completely. And with their bodies too young for child bearing, pregnancy results in serious health risks for both mother and child.
The experiences of three children affected by child marriage, Oli, Poppy and Jemi will be featured on Angus Crawford's Crossing Continents on Radio 4 on Thursday 26 April at 11:00 BST and again on Monday 30 April at 20:30 BST.
Meet Oli – An Inspiring Young Boy
12-year-old boy Oli is making a big difference to families living in poverty in Bangladesh – and the country’s future. A sponsored child with the children’s charity Plan, he is an inspirational member of one of their children’s groups in northern Dhaka raising awareness of the impact of early and forced marriage on girls and their capacity to contribute to society.
“Behind our parents’ decisions to marry girls young is poverty – extreme poverty. If our parents get a good offer, sometimes it is very difficult to change their minds,” explains Oli.
Nargis’ story – a Young Woman’s Personal Account of Child Marriage
“My name is Nargis and I’m 19. I was 12 when child marriage shattered all my dreams. My family arranged for me to be married: my father decided for me, and my husband’s father decided for him. There was no scope for me to say no.
“On the day itself I was frightened: again and again I felt fear, fear, fear. I didn’t know what to do, or what was going to happen next. Once my grandmother and sister had gone, I had to go and live with my husband. I didn’t know him. That night I felt strange, and very scared.
“When I lived with my parents I had freedom. After I was married I lost this, and I can’t live the same way now. I feel very bad, because instead of going to school I live at my father-in-law's house and do all the household work.
“When I was at home I could share my feelings and emotions. Now that I’m married I don’t have any say and I have to abide by what my husband and my father and mother-in-law decide.
“Two years after my marriage, when I was 14, I gave birth to a baby boy, but there were complications after the birth. He survived for 16 days but then he died.
“When I was getting married, I had five close friends. Two are still in school, but three are married. I never see them now. When I was in school and with my friends, I was very happy: I really want to go back to school.
“I don’t think girls should marry before they’re 18. If they do, they face problems like I did with my baby. I want to tell other girls that the age I got married was not good for health, for family, for education - for anything.”
Plan's work in Bangladesh
Plan has been working to issue birth certificates to girls in Bangladesh. Having a birth certificate helps girls prove that they are not old enough to get married.
Plan is also working with community organisations and state authorities on raising public awareness of the problem – by holding open events, theatre shows and workshops to explain why it is important that girls wait until they are over 18 to be married.
Help us end early and forced marriage.