Ten years go, Radha escaped from child marriage. Now, she is continuing the fight for girls and young women to have equal rights.
Radha was due to get married at just 14-years-old. This would have likely meant leaving school, having children and being responsible for childcare and the domestic duties for her husband and his family.
Ten-years on, she is about to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree and is a prominent girls’ rights advocate in her community.
Radha is from the Danajpur region of Bangladesh, a district characterised by low literacy, poverty, and limited income opportunities. These limited opportunities mean parents are keen to marry their daughters off to reduce financial burden – and in the hope their daughters will be looked after by their new husbands.
However, in reality, early or forced marriage can lead to physical and sexual violence, premature pregnancy and death during childbirth.
Bangladesh has the second highest number of child marriages. In 2018 alone, there were 3.9 million marriages carried out with brides under the age of 18. The marriage rate of young girls in Bangladesh is 11 times higher than that of boys.
Escaping child marriage
When Radha was 14 years-old she refused to get married. Instead, she joined Plan International’s Wedding Busters, learning key leadership and mentoring skills by raising awareness on how to prevent child marriage among her peers. She even taught girls karate to further empower them.
At 24, Radha will soon complete her final year of university while working as Community Development Supervisor for Pollisree, a women’s rights organisation.
Despite studying and working, Radha still advocates for the rights of girls and young women. Recently, while celebrating the annual Hindu student ritual of Sarawati Puja, Radha directed a play about girls’ education and violence against women.
“Through the demonstration of drama, I tried to explain the importance of girls’ education. If girls can be educated then they can protect themselves from abuse.”
Liberation through education
After completing her degree, Radha has even bigger dreams. She wants to establish a computer training facility for girls so they can be empowered by ICT. Most of the centres currently running in her district have male teachers, but Radha intends to change that. She knows it’s beneficial for girls to have women as role models, to see what they can become.
In 10 years, Radha has gone from potential child bride to a woman taking the lead in her own life. Now, she is dedicated to making sure that girls are empowered, educated and can lead the full lives they deserve.