Case example of preventing child marriages in Bangladesh

One in five girls in Bangladesh is being forced to marry before her 15th birthday.  The minimum age allowed by law is 18.  Parents are arranging these marriages because girls are unable to earn an income in this culture and are totally dependant on their families to support and protect them and pay their dowries.  An NGO, Plan International, is working in the area to bring awareness that this is against the law.

One 12 year-old boy, Oli Ahmed, is a campaigner working with Plan International.  His friend who was like an older sister was forced to marry and never returned to the village.  Oli approached Plan International telling them “he wanted to set up a group led by children to try and stop the practice” of these early illegal marriages.  He and a group of friends go door to door “persuading, scolding, and hectoring parents.”  Their work is effective.  One NGO worker as said that since Oli and friends have “started work, the number of child marriages in that area has dropped by as much as 50%.”  Oli is very enthusiastic for this work and “feel[s] very good that a girl’s life has been saved because of the work that [he has] done.” Can this success be replicated in other villages if boys take up the campaign, or is it an anomaly given Oli’s personal experience and enthusiasm for his work?

 

See Angus Crawford, Child Marriages Blight Bangladesh, BBC News, (April 21, 2012), http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17779413.

One comment

  1. In order to answer your question, we need to know two things: first, what are the causes of or contributing factors to child marriages in Bangladesh; and second, why is Oli and Plan International successful? I will venture a guess as to the first.

    While Bangladesh seems to be among ‘the worst’ in this area, it is certainly not unique. UNICEF reports that across countries, “poverty is one of the major factors underpinning child marriage.” A quick Google search will reveal interesting correlations between poverty rates and child marriage rates. It doesn’t take much of a leap in order to infer that in countries with extreme poverty, young girls are an economic burden on their families. Early child marriage, then, is a means to ensure financial security and therefore survival of the family. On similar rational, the younger a daughter is married, the less dowry her family must pay.

    As to Bangladesh-specific contributing factors, I would speculate that the phenomenon of child marriages has much to do with the culture and moral codes of the people. My thought here is that if Bangladesh is a strict patriarchal society (again this is only conjecture), then that could help explain why, for instance, child marriages occur between young girls and older men- not the other way around.

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