Rupa's story was kindly shared by our member BRAC.
"When I was 13, I got married. One year and nine months later, my husband died. My son was only one month old when his father died from a stroke."
When Rupa’s husband died, she was forced to return to her father’s house where she toiled in the fields and worked as a maidservant for a pittance.
Since becoming a Shebika (barefoot lawyer) for BRAC's Human rights and Legal Services (HRLS) department, Rupa has become a community advocate, speaking out against dowry, acid violence, early marriage and gender inequalities in her home community of Rangpur, Bangladesh. BRAC believes that by increasing legal awareness and education, rural woman can demand their rights and entitlements, enabling them to find pathways out of poverty. We offer legal aid, legal representation and legal education classes to increase knowledge and demand of rights.
After completing the BRAC Human Rights and Legal Education (HRLE) class training, Rupa became confident in passing on knowledge about the legal system in seven different areas of law. "Ever since I started teaching the class, I have been happy," she says. "Before, I was not aware of the legal system, but now I teach a lot of people about the law."
Many women she teaches express surprise that common practices like early marriage and dowry are both illegal. BRAC's legal education initiatives complement our legal aid clinics, where women can receive free legal aid to protest injustices.
If you are aware about the law, the bad side and good side, then no women will be victims in our society.Rupa
In her community, Rupa is readily available for anyone needing her assistance and also does routine door-to-door visits. Rupa receives a stipend for her services as a Shebika. She is also part of BRAC's Ultra Poor program, through which she has received five goats and ten chickens, from which she earns an income. “I get support from BRAC and it is enough to support my family," she says. "I also get a stipend for teaching the Human Rights and Legal Education class. Now I have improved myself. Previously I was not self sufficient.”
Rupa works tirelessly on changing the attitude towards women within her community and firmly believes, "if you are aware about the law, the bad side and good side, then no women will be victims in our society".
In the time it has taken to read this article 24 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 3 seconds