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Child Marriage

Courageous Shania stopped her own child marriage.

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“I know the consequences of child marriage. [From The Hunger Project, we also] learnt about the evils of drugs, as well as changes during adolescence. Knowing all of this has given me the courage to protect myself against early marriage. I was able to convince my parents. My marriage is over. Now I can realise my dream of becoming a teacher.”

The Hunger Project runs programs such as Youth Ending Hunger in schools in rural Bangladesh. Shania is in year 9 at school and lives in the Naogaon district 

In parts of Bangladesh that are very poor, many families struggle to afford to send their children to school. Because boys tend to be valued more than girls, parents typically pull out girls from school and marry them off, even before the legal age of 18. COVID-19 has compounded an already bad situation: the UN Population Fund estimates an additional 13 million child marriages will occur between 2020-2030 due to the pandemic. 

Shania usually rides a bicycle to school. The people of the village did not approve of her behaviour, so they approached her father with a marriage proposal. Shania knew that she had to do something to stop it happening. She had learnt about the negative consequences of child marriage through the Youth Ending Hunger’ program in her school – a program run by school students who have been trained by The Hunger Project tmobilise their classmates around the issue of child marriage. 

Because of this knowledge, Shania was able to talk to her parents about the consequences of child marriage, such as the health dangers of giving birth before her body was fully developed, and continuing the cycle of malnutrition for her baby. As a result, her parents helped her to stop her marriage, and she was luckily able to remain in school. 

It has never been a more critical time to empower girls to stop the harmful practice of child marriage today — invest here.

How these school students stopped child marriage.

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“I got confidence from [my training with] The Hunger Project and stopped my early marriage.” — Hira, Year 10, Bangladesh.

The Hunger Project runs programs such as ‘Safe Schools for Girls’ in rural Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, two thirds of girls are married off before their 18th birthday, and 1 in 5 are married off before the age of 15. This means girls are constantly vulnerable to being married off before they’re ready. 

One day out of nowhereHira’s relatives arranged her marriage to an unemployed boy. As part of The Hunger Project’s ‘Safe Schools for Girls’ program, reproductive health training had been conducted at her school. From this training, Hira had learnt about the harmful consequences of child marriage, including the dangers of getting pregnant before the body is fully developed. In addition, The Hunger Project had shown many short educational movies in her school. One particular movie called “Kusum’s Autobiography” had left a deep impression, as she saw in the movie how child marriage destroys the life of a teenager – essentially forcing them overnight to stop being a girl and to become a wife and motherShe knew that if she were married off before the legal age of 18, then her life could end up like that too 

With this knowledge, Hira enlisted the help of the other girls and boys in The Hunger Project’s Youth Unit – a group of school students who actively work to stop child marriage for the girls at their schoolTogether, they explained the negative consequences to her family members and were successfully able to convince them to call off the marriage. 

It doesn’t have to be like this. You could invest today so that even more girls can access this program and end child marriage.

Bizuhaye Terefe Goes Back to School

530 300 The Hunger Project Australia

Originally published by The Hunger Project Nederland.

In the North Shoha region of Ethiopia, The Hunger Project is actively working with the Her Choice alliance to end of child marriages and enabling girls to re-enrol in school. Often, these are girls who have dropped out of school after a child marriage or teenage pregnancy. The Hunger Project empowers girls so that they can finish their education and transform their situations for themselves and their children.

Bizuhaye Terefe, 19 years old, lives in the village of Wujiba with her aunt and five-year-old son, Abity. She has been going back to school for two years now.

Bizuhaye is happy that she can go back to school after she had to leave when she was just 13 years old.

“When I was 13, I was raped and then I got pregnant. That was a very nasty experience. I’m still sad about that,” Bizuhaye says. “Because I was expecting, I had to quit school — that’s how it works here. I was living with my grandmother at the time because my mother had died a year earlier. After Abity was born, I lived with grandma for a while, but she could no longer care for us. Fortunately my aunt, Genzeb, then took us in.”

Image credit: Johannes Ode

The Hunger Project started the Her Choice program in the region two years ago. They empower and run activities for girls who left school too early to give them the chance to go back to school. Like Bizuhaye, these girls are usually married early or pregnant.

“I was visited by the school director, asking if Bizuhaye wanted to come back to school. Of course I wanted to help her, but I had no money for pens, notebooks, uniform and other school supplies. The Hunger Project then took care of that so Bizuhaye could go back to school!” says Genzeb.

Bizuhaye says, “I really enjoy going back to school. My favourite subject is English. My dream is to become a pilot later, that seems great. I can therefore earn a lot of money and help my family. If I later become a pilot and my future husband has a busy job, I want to plan the arrival of even more children. I certainly want to have four children, but I want to be ready for it. Abity can then become a big brother. It will take a while before the time comes. First I want to finish high school and study. And my son will also go to school from next year. “

Stella’s Story.

530 300 The Hunger Project Australia

We will never forget the look on Stella’s face when she described having no choice but to marry off her 14-year old grand-daughter, Emilida, to keep the other three children in her care alive. Stella’s eyes were heavy. The shame she felt was etched on her face. No choice. What would you do? Save three children or potentially lose four?

Stella’s daughter and son-in-law had died of HIV and Stella had taken on the care of their children. Suddenly, she had four children she couldn’t afford to raise.

Stella’s grand-daughter, Emilida, was married off at 14 to a man twice her age. One day, while Emilida was at the markets, she was approached by two Women’s Empowerment Animators (local volunteer leaders) trained by The Hunger Project. The Animators asked Emilida why she wasn’t at school and why she was so dirty. After confiding in them about her marriage, the Animators and Emilida returned to her Grandmother’s house and spoke to her about the negative impact of child marriage and the importance of education. The group decided that it was time to take action.

They went to the village chief and had Emilida’s marriage annulled.

The Women’s Empowerment Animators empowered Stella with the knowledge and resources she needed to transform her family’s life. Now, Stella farms maize and sells firewood to earn an income. She re-enrolled Emilida in school and is an advocate for girls education.  Stella has also become a Women’s Empowerment Animator, so that she can empower other women and girls in her community.

Emilida’s vision is to one day become a teacher so that, she too can empower others through education.

This is not a story of despair. This is a story of hope, courage, transformation and possibility for the future. Leadership is not about having influence or power. Leadership is having a clear vision and having the determination, courage and passion to achieve it.

Find out more about our Leadership Immersion Programs.

International Day of the Girl 2019

530 300 The Hunger Project Australia

Today is International Day of the Girl. Here at The Hunger Project, we’re celebrating the unscripted and unstoppable girls who are ending hunger around the world.

Meet Bonani

In the Bagherhat District of Bangladesh, Bonani is a young girl who attends high school. 

In many parts of Bangladesh, girls are denied an education. Continuing beyond primary school to high school is limited to those families who can afford it. Many families like Bonani’s often make a choice between sending their girls to school or marrying them off at a young age. Early marriage is often seen as the right decision. As a result, many girls are pulled out of school and never return.   

Even for those girls like Bonani, who do get to continue their studies, there are other barriers. Where Bonani lives, there were no toilets at schools for girls to use. This meant that she would have to stay home when she was menstruating. At other times she developed bladder issues from not being able to use a toilet all day at school. Because of this, she missed one week per month of schooling. 

“Boys get many advantages, why not girls? We are all created equal. Girls need more support when they go through physical and mental changes,” Bonani says. 

 The Hunger Project runs programs such as the Safe Schools for Girls in rural communities in Bangladesh. Safe Schools for Girls increases girls’ attendance in school including by getting toilets for girls installed. To date, more than 30,000 students have participated in the program.  

“I joined a group in my school because I like to learn things and spread awareness among others. I like social activities such as dancing and acting, and I also learned that girls like me could have a say. So now I advocate for girls’ toilets and changerooms to be installed in schools, and for boys to stop harassing girls especially on the way to and from school.”  

Today, Bonani is a proud advocate for getting girls’ toilets installed in local schools. She is also an active member of her school community, advocating to stop harassment and child marriage and encouraging her peers to stay in school.   

“It would be better to get married at 30, after getting an education and a job. I like to help other people and society. In the future I want to serve my country through social work or becoming a doctor,” she says. 

Invest in programs like Safe Schools for Girls here.

Meet Razia: Protesting Child Marriage

530 300 The Hunger Project Australia

In Bangladesh, boys are typically valued more than girls. Girls are often pulled out of school at a young age to be married off. They aren’t able to earn an income for themselves or have a say in family decisions. They are made to look after their siblings and families, do the household chores and other manual labour instead.  

After being forced to marry at 15 years old (three years before the legal age of 18), Razia was denied an education and was forced to stay at home and provide for her new husband and start a family. No one protested her marriage. Like other girls her age who were being married, Razia soon gave birth to a boy and a girl.   

“I thought child marriage was my fate,” she says. 

She couldn’t see a way to break out of the cycle of poverty and stop own daughter from becoming a victim of child marriage just like she had been. 

The Hunger Project runs programs such as Women’s Leadership Workshops in rural communities in Bangladesh. These workshops empower women with knowledge and skills they can use to develop their own businesses to transform their situation, lift their families out of poverty, and enable other women in their village to do the same

After receiving training from The Hunger Project, Razia began a new enterprise from home — sewing — which has brought in an income. She also started a women’s self-help group to help other women save money to reinvest in their family on important things like education.  

Razia now works from home earning her own income. As she earned more income, her confidence grew. She looked to use her newfound influence to shift the perspective on local issues close to her heart, and now protests against child marriage in her village.  

I’ve learned how to raise poultry and livestock, and sew. Because of this, I now have enough savings to easily support the health and education of my children. I’ve also been able to send my own daughter to The Hunger Project’s Youth Leadership Training. Now she collaborates with other young people around here to create a harmonious society free from child marriage.  

In addition, I’ve set up my own compost plant to produce organic fertiliser for my home garden. I’ve now encouraged 20 other women in my neighbourhood to set up their own organic compost plants too.” 

The women’s group have written a list of children who have dropped out of school in the village. They are working to support them to return to studying.   

“Now, I work to protest against child marriage and make people aware of its consequences,” Razia says.  

Bangladeshi Community Rallying to Stop Child Marriage

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Around the world, 39,000 girls get married every day. This is especially a challenge in lower income countries like Bangladesh. Here, one in three girls will marry before the age of 18. 

Her Choice is an alliance of organisations that are working to stop child marriage in 11 countries. Their long-term goal is to create communities in which girls and young women are free to decide if, when and whom to marry. 

In 2018, The Hunger Project-Bangladesh held an event to engage communities in dialogue around child marriage, a topic of concern in their village. Participants included government officials, elected leaders, union members, youth volunteers, teachers and students. 

 

 

Participants presented information about child marriage. They expressed their opinions and priorities by placing sticky notes on shared displays, opening a dialogue about a long-held community issue. The session successfully ended with a joint pledge to reduce child marriage from 81 percent to less than 30 percent in their community. 

Help us educate and empower communities in Bangladesh to stop child marriage for good.

#It Takes A Village to send a girl to school

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When a girl is given the opportunity to go to school, everything changes.

Like what changes, you ask? For a girl in Bangladesh education can:

 

However, a girl can’t do it on her own – it takes a village.

Entire villages get together in the areas where The Hunger Project works in Bangladesh to ensure that girls get educated. #ItTakesAVillage for girls to go to – and stay in – school.

 

 

This community spirit is particularly remarkable given it takes place in a country where:

Without education, a girl remains stuck in a cycle of hunger and poverty. The Hunger Project works in partnership with 5.1 million people across rural Bangladeshi villages to transform harmful, traditional attitudes about girls – so that their lives are valued and they get the chance to be educated.

You too can band together to make it possible for girls to go to – and stay in – school. Will you join us?

Stand with Rumi from Bangladesh

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Rumi is 14 years old and lives in rural Bangladesh. Each day on her way to school, she was being sexually harassed by older men. Her family was already struggling to pay her school fees, so the extra issue of the harassment pushed Rumi’s family to one day suddenly take her out of school and marry her off to a much older man.

“When I found out that my parents were arranging my marriage, I felt like my life stopped. My dreams were shattered when I was taken out of school. I wasn’t ready to become a mother or a wife,” Rumi said.

Before too long her classmates noticed she was missing, so they went to her house and spoke to Rumi’s father. They convinced him that it wasn’t right to take Rumi out of school and marry her off. They then went to the school principal, who agreed to waive Rumi’s school fees.

Rumi (centre right) and her classmates.

These girls were empowered and enabled to take these courageous actions through participating in The Hunger Project’s Safe School for Girls Program in Bangladesh. The Program has taught 30,000 young girls about their rights, and the negative impacts of child marriage.

“Now I’m back in school, I am studying hard so that I can get into a good college. I dream of becoming a doctor. My classmates have made me feel courageous and I feel safe because of them. I no longer have to worry about child marriage,” Rumi said.

You can stand with Rumi and thousands of girls like her in Bangladesh:

  1. Share the inspirational story with your friends on social media.
  2. Read about the positive impact The Hunger Project is having in Bangladesh.
  3. Join Unleashed Women and empower women and girls like Rumi through fundraising to stop child marriage and end hunger for everyone.
  4. Invest now with a one-off or monthly investment.

Ending child marriage in Bangladesh

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The Hunger Project Bangladesh recently led a community-wide event to raise awareness of the harmful effects of child marriage and to highlight The Hunger Project’s commitment to empowering women and girls.

Around the world, 39,000 girls get married every day. This is a challenge in low-income countries like Bangladesh where one in three girls are married before the age of 18.

Participants of the community event presented information about child marriage, expressing their opinions and their priorities – opening up a dialogue about a long-held community issue. The session successfully ended with a joint pledge to reduce child marriage from 81 percent to less than 30 percent in their community.

The event, which took place as part of The Hunger Project’s involvement in the Her Choice Alliance, saw volunteers and staff members share new data about child marriage in communities across Bangladesh. Her Choice is an alliance of organisations that are working to halt child marriage in 11 countries, with the long-term goal of creating communities in which girls and young women are free to decide if, when and whom to marry.

At The Hunger Project, we believe in measuring what matters. Our philosophy of monitoring and evaluating our community-level programs is centered on the understanding that empowering individuals and communities with knowledge, information and opportunities is essential for achieving sustainable self-reliance and ending hunger.

All of our programs are monitored through a participatory monitoring process. This means that we start with grassroots, community-led engagement to close the feedback loop between our projects’ performance and community expectations and goals. Objectivity is key, so we embed transparency and accountability for data throughout all of our monitoring and evaluation processes.

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