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A LEADER WHO UNLEASHES CONFIDENCE INTO GIRLS

Rozina, from the northern district of Kurigram in Bangladesh, has been an activist against gender-based violence and educating other girls in her area for several years. Her unrivalled determination is what helped her stop her own child marriage and prevent five more. Here, she tells her story, and emphasises the importance for girls to be educated and informed:

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Rozina, 19, walks her brother to school in Kurigram district

 

I may look small and frail to you, but I have big dreams. I know what I want. When I was 17, I stopped my own marriage. I am from a poor family. I knew I needed to stay in school and get a good education.

 

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Rozina, 19, advocates in her community against child marriage

 

I had been an active member of my local Youth Forum and had been joining weekly sessions where we discussed and learnt about the negative affect of child marriage, I knew that child marriage was illegal. In the sessions, we also learnt about changes that happen to our bodies as we enter adolescence years. These sessions built my confidence and helped me to grow my voice.

 

I am 19 now and about to finish high school. I have been paying for my education from the money I earn tutoring. I tutor 10 students who live in my village, they are all from poor families like mine, sometimes their parents cannot pay me, or pay me less. But that is OK, I understand.’

 

I love tutoring, supporting girls like me, so that they do well at school, and are confident. But I don’t only stick to school subjects, I tell them what to expect when they start bleeding, and that this is normal. Parents are often embarrassed, and don’t tell their daughters much about sexual and reproductive health. Girls often don’t know that they have rights. When I told them that I had called the government hotline and prevented 5 child marriages, they were amazed, they realised that they too could be braver, and have power.

Girls often don’t know that they have rights.

 

Activists like Rozina show when girls are given a safe platform to use their voice, they can inspire and educate others.

 

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Rozina, 19, enjoys playing games with the girls she tutors

 

Plan International’s 2021 Asia-Pacific Girls Report reveals how girl activists are becoming a necessary force for gender equality in the region. The report, presenting the region’s state of girls’ and young women's leadership, finds that girls and young women are working tirelessly to ensure gender-transformative change and social inclusion. Yet the environments in some countries are more enabling than others. Across the region, social and cultural norms continue to contribute to gender inequality and the lack of opportunity.

 

Plan International believes in the importance of girl-led leadership in the battle for gender equality. To do this, more needs to be done to create a safe, inclusive and open space for them to use their voice, spread their message of ensuring equal rights for all and develop their collective and individual power.