Sufiya Khutan, of Tala Upazila, Bangladesh, became a child bride when she was only 13. By 14, she had already become a mother. When her husband, the only earning member of the family, fell ill several years ago, Sufiya had to rise above dire financial hardship to provide for her daughter Selina’s education and give her a better and more secure future. Their dream? That Selina will become a doctor.
Villagers in Sufiya’s community have criticized her for spending money on her daughter’s education, and the family receives marriage proposals for Selina almost daily. Unable to support more than one child’s education, parents in Bangladesh often decide to educate their sons instead of their daughters, convinced that a son will be able to better provide for his family.
Education is indispensable. If you invest one dollar in female education, you can get five dollars in return.”
Moderator Mahmud Hasan – Country Coordinator for WGLG Bangladesh – engages panelists Mashuda Khatun Shefali of Nari Uddog Kendra; Dr. Iftekhar Uzzaman of Transparency International Bangladesh; and Mr. M K Aaref of the Edward M. Kennedy Center for Public Service and the Arts, Dhaka
USAID Bangladesh, Women and Girls Lead Global (WGLG) and the EMK Center commemorated International Women’s Day with a film screening highlighting the traumatic effects of child marriage – and a discussion that built a powerful case for keeping girls in school instead. Part of an ongoing Gender Seminar incorporating Women of the World films, the event’s theme was, “Girls’ Rights to Education and to Decide When to Marry are Human Rights.” Continue reading →
Thousands of young girls wrote passionate letters declaring their right to stay in school and out of child marriage to commemorate National Girl Child Day in Bangladesh this year. The Youth Summit and Letter Festival – organized by Women and Girls Lead Global, National Girl Child Advocacy Forum and Youth Ending Hunger-Naogaon – called on girls to write open letters to their parents, telling them why they didn’t want to marry young. Over 3,000 girls from 53 different schools in Bangladesh participated, sharing their desire for freedom and their disappointment that the law banning child marriage for girls under 16 is not being consistently upheld. Continue reading →
Schools are gradually becoming more girl-friendly in northwestern Bangladesh, thanks to the interventions of the Best Schools for Girls campaign. Last month, 18 Women and Girls Lead Global film facilitators in Naogaon province gathered for a two-day retreat to share stories about the changes that schools in their area have implemented since the campaign officially launched in October 2013. Continue reading →
Most poor families in Bangladesh who marry off their daughters before they turn 18 – the legal age of marriage for girls – say that poverty forces them to make the choice. They can’t afford to keep their girls in school or otherwise provide for them, so they withdraw them from school and find a man who can care for them. The result, for most girls who marry early, is more poverty, as well as higher rates of maternal and infant mortality, and increased susceptibility to violence and disease.
But what happens when a poor family makes a different choice – to keep its girls in school rather than marry them off? Continue reading →
Long-distance running is a way of life in the Arsi region of Ethiopia. In a country well acquainted with poverty, famine and war, world-beating athletes are a source of intense pride. Many of the world’s greatest runners hail from Bekoji, a small remote town in the Southern Highlands. In the Beijing Olympics, runners from the town won all four golds in the long distance track events–more medals than most industrialised countries.
Town of Runners follows three children from Bekoji keen to follow in their heroes’ footsteps, as they move from school track to national competition and from childhood to adulthood. Set against the background of the seasonal rhythms of this farming region, and the impact of increased urbanization and globalization on agriculture the film shows rural young Africans striving to make their own future.
By November, the grounds of Bangabandhu Peshajibi High School had been under water for three months, and most of the classrooms were un-usable. But the flooding didn’t stop dozens of students, parents and teachers from flocking to the launch of the Best School for Girls campaign at this secondary school in southern Bangladesh’s Sathkhira District. The Best School for Girls campaign challenges schools in three districts of Bangladesh to create girl-friendly educational environments. Continue reading →
The city of Calcutta in India is 10,961 miles from the community of Unocolla in the Andean highlands of Peru. But the distance did not prevent a group of Peruvian teachers at Unocolla’s Mariano Melgar High School from connecting with the story of Amlan Ganguly, the founder of a youth leadership organization called Prayasam in India.
At a recent screening of a film called TheRevolutionary Optimists, secondary school teachers in Unocolla were inspired by the way in which Ganguly, a lead character in the film, has planted hope in the poorest neighborhoods of Calcutta by empowering children to become leaders in their communities. A teacher named Alejandro Ruelas Verástegui was particularly impressed by an exercise Ganguly leads called, “The River of Life”, which asks children to draw a river that charts the high and low points of their life experiences. He decided to use it, and other colleagues supported his idea. Continue reading →
The screening was scheduled for 7:30pm, but by 6:00 around 50 young girls and boys had gathered before the big white projector screen that had been set up on an expanse of dirt in the Delhi slum of Madanpur Khadar. As the start time neared, more people crowded into the space – mothers cradling infants, gangs of teenage boys, girls in pink and red and aqua-colored saris – until nearly 200 people were pressed tightly together. Organized by Women and Girls Lead Global and Magic Bus, a non-profit organization that mentors young people in the slums of Delhi, the event featured a screening of Revolutionary Optimists. The film profiles a group of adolescents in the slums of Calcutta who are being groomed as community organizers by a lawyer-turned-activist named Amlan Ganguly. Because the WGLG India campaign focuses on challenging harmful gender stereotypes as a way of addressing gender-based violence at the roots, one of the key messages that was highlighted at the screening is the mutual respect of the boys and girls in the film, and the exemplary way that they share power and leadership roles. Continue reading →
For girls in the village of Patnitala in northern Bangladesh, the route to school is fraught with challenges. More than half of the population lives below the poverty line. Most of their families are subsistence farmers without the means to pay for transportation or proper school shoes for their children. So the girls walk the two miles to get to class barefoot each day, cutting across rice fields, crossing rivers, and splashing through mud puddles. Continue reading →