Bangladesh: when child brides choose their own path, Meena’s story

Photo credit: Plan Asia

Meena’s story was kindly shared by our member Plan Asia.

Meena, a 15-year-old girl child from City Polli Slum in Dhaka, looks like any other teenager from the community. Unlike many other girls in Bangladesh, however, she was able to refuse her parents’ wishes for her to be married off.

Meena’s brother, a rickshaw driver, is the only earning member of the family of three. Poverty stalled Meena’s education early on. “I loved to go to school and enjoyed every bit of it. It was like a dream. Poverty brought me back to reality.”

I loved to go to school and enjoyed every bit of it. It was like a dream. Poverty brought me back to reality.

Meena

But poverty could not stop her from becoming a wedding buster. Meena was moved by Plan’s campaign against child marriage in her community.

“I regularly joined the sessions on child marriage held at the Plan office. In my free time, I read the booklets on child marriage that Plan gave us. We, the children, would discuss about the misfortunes that follow child marriage.” To raise awareness, Meena and her friends in the local child forum often perform dramas portraying the aftermath of child marriage.

A child bride to be

As poverty took a hold of Meena’s family, her parents decided to relieve the burden by marrying her off to a man thrice her age. But it was her time in the child forum that meant Meena knew this wasn’t a fate she was prepared to settle for.

“I knew what a wretched future awaited me once I’d get married and I was not at all ready to accept such fate.”

Meena and her friends from the children’s forum had already put a stop to three child marriages in their community by speaking up, but now it was time for Meena to fight her own fate by calling in the local Child Protection Group (CPG).

“When I heard from Meena, I immediately informed Plan staff and the Community Development Forum (CDF) because it’s important to engage the local elites and adults to negotiate and reason with the parents,” said Mukter, member of the CPG and CDF.

Calling it off

CDF and CPG members spoke with Meena’s mother and brother, promising that Meena would receive vocational training and a job placement so she could start earning money. With that, the marriage was off.

“Now I know that I was about to commit a mistake by getting her married. It would have certainly destroyed her future and brought even worse misery to the family,” said Nasima, Meena’s mother.

Meena is now training to become a tailor, working hard with dreams of resuming her education at some point.

Are you inspired by the wedding busters? Watch them in action.