Shashida is determined her own daughters will not marry young

Shashida is determined her own daughters will not marry young

Shashida was a mother of two by the time she was 14-years-old.

She lives in Dhaka Shishu, a 5-square-mile area packed with high-rise buildings and slums, and home to hundreds of thousands of people. 

Her home is a single room house made of tin, with dirt floors – with a nearby communal cooking area, rubbish tip, and water pump.

The area is crowded, narrow, and ramshackle.

“I hope to make my daughters educated, to help them stand on their own feet,” she said.

Shashida is one of the 15 million girls who are each year forced into early marriage across the world – and her country has one of the highest numbers of child brides in the world, with more than two million women who were forced into marriage as girls. 

In Bangladesh almost 20 per cent of girls are married by 15 years old, and 52 per cent are married by 18 years old.

In a report entitled The unfortunate reality of Child Marriage in India, Chief Executive and National Director of World Vision India said the issue of child marriage was a problem in both urban and rural India.

“The lives and futures of numerous girl children subjected to child marriage are put to risk… despite preventive laws, child marriages are a reality in India, but we seem to unconcernedly live with it,” he said.

“Changing community attitudes and mindsets, however, are now contributing significantly to the battle against child marriages.”

World Vision NZ’s Country Portfolio Manager Dan Mtonga says he has seen communities in Bangladesh and India transform when families and young women are educated about the effects of child marriage.

“Millions of girls are forced into early marriage, and their voices are not heard – for fear that if they do speak out about when and who they should marry, their families and communities will view them as standing against their fathers and brothers,” he said.

“With World Vision’s child groups, communities are empowered and girls are able to flourish, realising their dreams as students and leaders.”

The effects and consequences of early marriage are vast, ranging from severe sexual and reproductive health complications and an increase in child mortality, to domestic violence, social isolation, and extreme poverty.

An artist and UNICEF goodwill ambassador, Angélique Kidjo, said child marriage exemplified how the world’s poorest girls bear the heaviest burden of disadvantage.

She said when she was growing up in Cotonou, Benin, she saw this happen to her friends.

“Several of my girlfriends from primary school were married at a very young age,” she said.

“Some I never even saw again, - their married lives took them far away…others I met up with later on, but they weren’t the same.”

She said their joy and enthusiasm were gone.

“They were no longer free to act like children, but instead were forced to be grown-ups…I noticed they carried a sense of shame, a sharp awareness that they were different from the rest of us.”

She said in the UNICEF report The State of the World’s Children 2016 that with no progress, almost 950 million women will have been married as children by 2030, up from more than 700 million today.