Since the launch of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals in 2005, Bangladesh has made great strides in improving the lives of girls and women. Girls’ enrollment in primary school now exceeds boys’, and gender gaps in employment and income have narrowed, thanks to new opportunities for women in microcredit and the garment industry.
Despite these gains, girls and women still face tremendous obstacles to progress – chief among them, child marriage. Bangladesh has the third highest rate of child marriage in the world; 71 percent of girls in rural areas and 54 percent of girls in urban areas are married before age 18. Child marriage denies girls their rights to health, to education, to security, and to choose when and whom they marry. It compels girls to drop out of school, trapping them in the poverty cycle and preventing them from realizing their potential. Child brides are at high risk of death in childbirth, and are particularly vulnerable to pregnancy-related injuries such as obstetric fistula.
Working in remote communities where child marriage rates are highest, WGLG-Bangladesh is building a team of advocates who will share stories about the harmful effects of child marriage with community members who have the power to stop the practice: parents, educators, civil servants, and local politicians. These communities will then be awarded with “Best Schools for Girls” awards as they collaborate with local organizations to take the necessary steps to prevent child marriage and keep girls in school, and on a path to health, prosperity, and well-being.