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Nargis: married and a mother before 15

Nargis became pregnant soon after marrying at the age of 14. Such young mothers rarely appear in official statistics, so they are invisible to their governments and often ignored.

Nargis* with her son Nayeem*
Nargis* was forced into marriage at 14 because her family could not afford to support her any longer.

Nargis*, 15, lives with her son and husband in rural Bangladesh. Her parents did not want her to get married, but could not afford to support her anymore.

“I studied until the eighth grade. I really liked school. I had a dream to study law, but my parents could not afford it,” says Nargis. ”Although I knew the consequences of early marriage, I still ended up getting married at 14 because my parents are extremely poor.

“I didn’t know my husband – even now I don’t know his age. I didn't want to move into his house.”

Data needed on child mothers

It is estimated that Bangladesh has the highest rate of marriages involving girls under 15 in the world. Unicef statistics indicate that 18% of girls in Bangladesh are married before they turn 15. However, there are no reliable figures on the number of girls who give birth before 15.

All my future plans now are for my son

“I didn’t know anything about the human body. I started having my periods only 2 or 3 months before my marriage. At first I didn't want to be a mother but after I got married, people change their mind.”

Teenage pregnancy can have serious health risks as girls’ bodies are not yet ready for childbirth.

“I had complications during labour so I was supposed to have a caesarean section. Because of my very low blood count, they couldn’t do it. I had a normal delivery instead and it was very painful.”

Lost childhood

Nargis* preparing a meal for her family
Nargis wanted to study law but now works in a factory and carries out domestic chores to support her family.

Nargis now works to save money so she will be able to send her son Nayeem* to school. She also has to look after her son and complete household chores meaning she is unable to pursue her ambitions.

“I'm working in a garment factory to save enough money for the future so that my son can get an education and move forward in life. All my future plans now are for my son.”

Nargis’ story is taken from the #childmothers exhibition, which aims to highlight the issue of very early motherhood and ensure very young mothers are represented in statistics and supported in strategies and programmes.

Learn more about our global work on child marriage

*Names have been changed to protect identities

Photos by Pieter ten Hoopen.