29 NOVEMBER 2018
In a hard to reach area in Kurigram district, one community is celebrating. They are rejoicing in the birth of a new baby girl, something that is helping end decades of discrimination and change attitudes towards child marriage.
The family of the new baby girl have invited their friends, neighbours and community leaders to the celebration and asked everybody to give her the same attention as they would to a new born baby boy.
“I will support my daughter for her healthy growth and continue schooling her as long as she wants,” her father Shafiul pledges during the festivities.
Discrimination against ‘burdensome’ girls
Just a few years ago, the attitude of this community would not have been so positive towards the birth of a girl. Girls were considered to be a burden to their family and so less care was taken of them. They were served last and given less food than boys and as they grew, their progress would have been limited until eventually they were married off while still children.
Kurigram has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Bangladesh. 78% of girls are married before the age of 18.* Committed to reducing the high number of early marriages in the district, Plan International is working with communities to implement a range of different initiatives to reverse this trend.
One of these is to promote the celebration of girls when they are born, in the same way that the birth of a boy is observed. As of August 2018, a total of 448 births of girls in the district have been marked with a party.
After attending these celebration, people are starting to change their mindset and attitudes towards girls. Many communities have now made a commitment not to discriminate against girls as they grow up but to treat them the same as boys.
Changing attitudes towards girls and women
“I gave birth to seven daughters in the hope of having a boy, but no one celebrated their birth, not even my husband. Today I am overwhelmed to see the celebration of a girl’s birth. I will continue to support this celebration in the future,” exclaimed 65 year old Morium Begum.
Plan International’s Building Better Futures for Girls programme encourages communities to monitor adolescent girls who are below the age of 18 and encourages village leaders to maintain regular communication with families to ensure that they do not marry their daughters off early.
The communities also select champion fathers who work as volunteers, conducting small group meeting in their own villages where they discuss the impact of child marriage, the legal age of marriage and the punishments for those who flout the law.
Promoting girls’ health
Most of the women we spoke to in Kurigram district said that when girls fall sick they use traditional medicine to treat them or visit spiritual healers. They would never take their daughters to registered doctors.
But after our intervention, mothers are more willing to visit a doctor if their daughter is sick and provide her with nutritious food. Communities are now aware about girls’ rights and the importance of sending their daughters to school.
In Kurigram, ending child marriage has become a real social movement. Communities now consider their daughters to be assets not burdens.
“Celebrating the birth of girl children is the first step to reducing discrimination towards girls. It will definitely contribute to stopping child marriage,” states community leader Kalam.
From Kurigram to Kampala, Plan International is working towards a world where all girls to grow up with honour, respect and dignity, from the day they are born.
* Plan International is not responsible for the content of other sites.
Early childhood development, Protection from violence, child marriage, Gender-based violence