In Bangladesh, 66% girls are forced to get married before they reach the age of 18 which makes the country one of the top three countries in the world that is heavily burdened with child marriage. The pace at which the reduction is taking place needs to change. The effects of child marriage are multi-dimensional and is causing adverse effects to the brides, the mothers, the families and hence the nation. Child marriage robs girls of education, exposes them to health risks, deprives them of their reproductive rights and restrains them from contributing to the society, thereby reaching their full potential.
From local to national and global level advocacy- Moni Begum is the beacon of hope for Bangladesh, pledging her urges of ending child marriage, increasing access to trained health workers for every mother and child and ending preventable deaths. Moni Begum, a youth leader of the Sida funded project, attended the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) 70th in New York from the 19th to the 30th of September 2015. Moni met the honorable deputy speaker of the parliament, Fazle Rabbi Miah before her departure for the UNGA. She presented a letter in appreciation of the Governments credible work on achieving MDG 4 and while she also shared a four point ask from the Government for the Post 2015 period. At the UNGA Moni presented her case of ending child marriage in Bangladesh to worldwide delegates including Ban Ki Moon, David Cameron, Malala Yousafzai. She also met 19 other child delegates from around the world.
Moni attended the UNGA 70 with a slogan which was #LetHerGrow, referring to the need for equitable access to basic services for girls to grow, educate themselves, utilize their potential and contribute to the society. Moni believes that the country can only flourish when girls flourish as well. “Instead of getting married in their teens, girls should be encouraged to grow and educate themselves because they have immense potential in the future Bangladesh,” says Moni, “They need the support of the society and their families to grow with equal opportunity.”
Now, almost a year upon her return, Moni continues to work with the local government, community and the youth on issues of child marriage. She highlights the importance of delivery at the nearest health facility, the growing issue of drowning and stresses on the importance of education for girls. Moni Begum has created multiple support groups within her community with the inclusion of community leaders, local government, civil society and youths in her community to urge the importance of education, health facility and reducing child marriage. She has also been an integral part of monthly citizen hearings, school management committee meetings, meetings with local civil society organizations and participates at book clubs with other youths of the community.
Recently, a “meet and greet” with Moni Begum, suggests that she has helped girls to be back in schools and has stopped numerous child marriages in her community and around. Additionally, Moni continues her work with the Sida project as an advocate for change and has been continuously and consistently engaged with social work in her community, starting from running door-to-door errands on raising awareness on socially pressing issues to organizing hearings and medical camps in her community. “I am very happy to say that I can see a change. Many of the girls in my community realize the issues revolving around child marriage and teenage pregnancy. They want to continue their education, they want to be independent and secure their future, and they are working towards that. Many of their parents have also been very supportive towards them. This makes me very happy and keeps me motivated to do more.”