Shapla in Bangladesh was devastated when her parents arranged a marriage that would force her to drop out of school.
But thanks to World Vision, when Shapla told her friends about her situation, they knew what to do. Shapla's friends had completed a life-skills education course, and they were able to contact community leaders, who advocated for Shapla.
Read on to learn how Shapla escaped what she calls the "cave of death" -- and how her story represents World Vision's efforts to create futures of dignity and hope for girls and women.
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Shapla, we learned that your parents tried to force you to get married at age 15. What was your reaction?
I was so upset and frustrated hearing that news. I tried to make them understand that I wanted to continue to study, not to marry. But [there was] no result. In one stage, I had lost strength and cried like mad, finding no way to salvage [the situation].
How did you know that it wasn't wise to marry?
As I knew, early marriage is dangerous for a girl. I was thinking that if I got married at that age, it was nothing but to choose the cave of death.
If I am not worthy enough to handle any problem of my family’s, definitely that will be a disaster for me. In such a case, my husband could divorce me. Then I would have no way but to go back to my parents' house, which will increase their burden 100 times heavier. Thinking all these [things], I was opposed to [getting] married at that time.
How did you stop your marriage?
[Seeing] no other way, I shared my situation with friends who completed the life-skills education course from World Vision, and went to Bakul, [an adult] leader, for consultation.
Later on, Ms. Bakul went to my parents and explained the physical and mental effects of early marriage on a child -- and the law of the government against early marriage. My friends also took part in the discussion and requested once again to continue for me to study.
After a long argument and discussion, finally my parents and relatives realized and decided to refuse the marriage proposal.
Then, we called the groom‘s family and, in presence of Bakul and other [community] leaders, [we] forfeited the marriage. Finally, both parties came to understand and stopped the early marriage. Though it seems like a story, it happened in my life.
What is your opinion about marriage? Do you think a girl needs to get married? Is it more necessary than studying?
Marriage is a social phenomenon by which a new family is molded. It is obviously necessary to keep existence of the human society.
But I don’t think it is more necessary for a girl to get married and leave her studies midway. Education helps one to be self-supported. So in the long run, she can give support side-by-side with her husband to run the family smoothly. If necessary, an established girl can help during her parents' crisis also.
Tell us its bad effect on society and on the girl’s life.
When a girl gets married early, she gives birth at an early, immature age and in an immature body. As a result, the mother can become sick [and] malnourished, and face death. The baby can also be born sick and unhealthy.
On another hand, young mothers do not have enough experience and knowledge of maintaining a family, and she faces more challenges to cope with in her new life. Life of the young mother becomes a nightmare. Then the husband-wife relationship or relationship between two families also falls into a challenge.
If the mother is not educated, the children of the family could also not get a proper education for life. So the future of the newcomers also remains in threat and danger.
Why is still prominent in your society?
It’s mainly happening because of [lack of awareness] and feeling of insecurity of the parents. The parents always feel insecure of keeping a young, unmarried daughter at home for a long time as crimes like [harassment], rape, and acid-throwing are a regular occurrence in the society.
Other than these things, the poor economy and dowry system are some of the main reasons behind early marriage.
What type of boy would you like to choose as your husband?
I would like…a husband who will [share the desire for] me to enlighten my life with proper education, who will stand against crime and injustice of the society as I do. My husband will be helpful to others as well and will help my parents.
Do you get involved with any activities against early marriage?
Yes, besides stopping my own early marriage, I was involved in stopping two more early marriages…with some of my friends, [we] went to the parents to make them understand the bad effects of early marriage. It was not an easy job, but we tried our best. At last they came to understand and let their daughters continue their studies.
Shapla, we do appreciate and congratulate you for your leadership. What will be your advice to people who are not aware of social problems like early marriage?
My call to the youth is to stand strongly against any injustice. Be aware [of] your rights. My request to our parents is to try to fulfill your children’s rights. Do not ruin their life by forcing them into marriage at the early age. Let children enjoy childhood’s pleasures.
Read related article: Bangladeshi girl avoids early marriage, stays in school
October 11 was the first-ever International Day of the Girl. All week long, we're sharing stories of girls who are overcoming obstacles -- such as early marriage, exploitation, and gender discrimination -- to get an education. Take this opportunity to act on behalf of girls like Shapla, who are fighting to stay in school and achieve their God-given potential.
- Sponsor a girl in need. Sponsorship makes a long-term investment in the life of a girl, her family, and her community, providing greater access to life-giving basics like nutritious food, clean water, medical care, and education -- the foundation for a future of independence and hope.
- Make a one-time donation to our Girls and Women in Crisis Fund. Your gift will help us protect girls from being subject to tragic outcomes like early marriage through interventions like education, counseling, and other programs that seek to raise awareness and change unhealthy beliefs.
- Share #BasicMath. Girls + Education = A world of possibilities. Be a part of the photo campaign that shares this message with the world. Print out the Girls + Education placard. Fill in the blank with what educating girls means to you. Snap a photo and share it on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.