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.