Tania wanted to be a teacher, but she became a child bride
Tania's story is familiar to 38 million other Bangladeshi girls. 17-year-old Tania's home was unexpectedly visited by strangers, among them Tania's future husband. The next time they met was at their wedding when she was married to that adult stranger.
Now Tania is thirty and has a ten-year-old daughter, Shurobi. She hopes Shurobi will first be able to study, earn money, and only then plan her wedding. Shurobi dreams of becoming a doctor. Tania, who lives in poverty, does not yet have a specific plan for how to help her girl in practice. Her husband works in Saudi Arabia, so Tania takes care of their daughter alone.
– Child marriage destroys girls’ lives. As a child, you should go to school, play and hang out. After getting married, girls have to start a family, cook and take care of their in-laws, even though their minds and hearts aren’t ready yet, Tania explains.
A girl’s dreams and her own life mean nothing.
Tania herself has suffered the same fate. She had to take on responsibilities she wasn’t ready for as a teenager.
– A girl’s dreams and her own life mean nothing, Tania says and talks about her own unfulfilled dreams.
Tania had dreamed of becoming a teacher, but now she doesn’t have that opportunity anymore. She had been given permission to study and was able to go to school, but she didn’t have time to do it because she also had to take care of the home. Now she is determined to give her own daughter the opportunity to study.
“I’m sure there will be plenty of talk if I don’t marry my daughter early”
Tania explains that there are many reasons behind child marriage. The family’s financial situation, the costs of having a girl, fear of sexual violence and many others drive parents to make difficult decisions. Tania knows that simply the beauty of a girl can be the reason for child marriage.
The father of a beautiful 14-year-old girl married his daughter after people started pressuring him.
– The father of a beautiful 14-year-old girl married his daughter after people started pressuring him. They suspected that something would happen to the beautiful girl, and the poor father could not take care of her, Tania says, referring to sexual violence and the stigma it brings.
She herself is scared of what people will talk about her if she does not marry her daughter early.
– I know the dangers and but I’m not going to let that happen. I’m sure there’s plenty for people to talk about, Tania says.
She sees the consequences of child marriage as serious. For example, pregnancy can be dangerous for a young and developing mother, and the baby does not always survive.
– Due to the mother’s lack of food, the child may be born with a disability, or the mother is just not ready to take care of the child, Tania says seriously.
Tania sees value in the work that is done in their community. Fida and the Bangladeshi organisation Ashirbad organise trainings on children’s rights. Those who attend the trainings are more aware of the dangers and together the community can work to prevent child marriage.
– Parental awareness is the most important thing. They should know about the dangers of child marriage and who their daughter is with, so that they don’t have to worry, Tania ponders.