In Bangladesh, we're helping women like Jachinta learn new business skills. When families earn better incomes, they can better provide for their children.
And in a country like Bangladesh where half of girls are married by 15, these parents don't feel they need to marry their daughters off so young.
Read more about our "Fresh Start" program!
As part of my role at World Vision, I have the privilege of meeting people in the communities where we work. Earlier this month, I met nine young moms who will likely be part of our new program in Bangladesh, called Nobo Jatra (A New Beginning). It’s a five-year, USAID-funded program that focuses on building food security in rural communities by focusing on economic development, gender equality, and resilience building.
In some parts of Bangladesh, early marriage and early first births are serious health, social, and economic problems. The average age of mothers at first birth is just over 18, and the median age of marriage for females is just over 15 years. That means that half of the girls in Bangladesh are married before they are 15—the age of a high school sophomore!
In the very rural and very poor area of southwest Bangladesh, where I was visiting the nine moms, early marriage is even earlier. There were reports of 11-year-old girls being given in marriage.
The nine young moms I met ranged from about 16-26 years of age. When I asked them how the new Nobo Jatra project could delay early marriage, they said that it was a matter of economics. Poor families were looking for a son-in-law who would not only pay the dowry as an initial sum but also be a source of revenue for the family over the years.
I realized that our new project really needs to focus on strengthening the families who have unmarried 13- to 17-year-old daughters. If we are able to strengthen these families economically—so they keep their daughters in school—we might be able to reduce the early marriages, early births, low birth weights, stunted and malnourished children, and ultimately deaths of mothers and children.
Some ultra-poor families in Nobo Jatra will be part of what we call a graduation program. It focuses on those who have little to no assets, whose children may have left school for the lack of school fees, and who have few (if any) income sources. Enterprise development workers will be assigned to each family and will visit often to help them address their economic, social, and health needs. The graduation program has been shown to dramatically increase the health and education of the family and their children.
As I met with the nine young moms, I was reminded of another woman, Jachinta, who was part of our privately funded Nabo Suchana (A Fresh Start) project in Bangladesh that ended last year. Through that program, we worked with 11,800 smallholder farmers and their families to increase their income and assets by improving their knowledge of the value chain and strengthening their links to markets and service providers.
The project got 404 producer groups involved in capacity building and trainings on production technologies and leadership for business and entrepreneurship development. The final evaluation showed that the percent of parents and caregivers who were able to pay for their children’s health costs without assistance rose from 33 percent to 77 percent, and for every dollar put into the program, families were able to earn $10.43—that is a fantastic return on investment!
Jachinta is a 30-year-old mother, and her 7-year-old son Jeet is sponsored through World Vision. She received tools and training through our project to become an animal health worker. She learned how to raise ducks and chickens and to have improved breeds for better quality meat and eggs.
Jachinta said, “After the training, it took me a month to reach the community and help members understand how to improve the practice. We now vaccinate the birds, learn how to clean the brooders, and give proper care, which help the birds to grow well and produce big eggs.”
Jachinta set up a small demonstration farm for others to learn because at first they were reluctant to allow her to vaccinate their poultry.
“At first we feared when she introduced to us the idea of vaccination for Ranikeht Disease, Baby Chick Ranikhet, and Duck Plague,” said Parul, a 50-year-old farmer in the community. “Now that many have tested and it works, we all take them to Jachinta for vaccination. Our chicken and ducks are healthy and no longer die just easily.”
Jachinta now has a skill set that will not only provide her with income that will contribute to her family’s food security, health, and well-being, but she is also valued by and contributing to her community.
Working with USAID, private donors, and sponsors enables us to work long-term with poor communities in Bangladesh to transform the lives of families. As the father of three daughters, I feel privileged to spend my life working to improve the lives of young women like Jachinta and the nine young mothers.
Dan Norell is the Senior Technical Advisor for Economic Development at World Vision USA.
Give farm animals to an entrepreneur like Jachinta!
The Nobo Jatra project is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this blog are the responsibility of World Vision, Inc. and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the Unites States Government.