The hope Blog

Overcoming Early Marriage to Pursue a Dream

Bangladesh faces a concerning issue of high child marriage rates, exacerbated by societal, religious, COVID-19, and climate challenges. Shockingly, 38 million girls and women, 13 million under 15, are married early, impacting their education, wellbeing and fueling poverty cycles. Amidst this, Rumi Akhter and her family find hope through a child marriage prevention loan, rescuing them from this harmful practice.

Rumi Akhter, a 13 years old girl lives in Sariaknadi Bogra with her father, mother, two brothers and a sister. Rumi’s father was a hardworking man who owned a small shop in the town, where he sold various goods to the friendly locals. Her mother, on the other hand, dedicates her time to taking care of the home and the family. Rumi is the eldest among her siblings. She has two brothers who reads in schools and a sister with an age of 2. 

Just like any 13 years of Rumi’s eye were full of dreams and hope, a hope to being a doctor and serve her community and her family. She attended school regularly and was the first girl in her class. 

“The study was always important to me. I enjoyed my time in school. I used to be the first girl and I even won many medals and prizes for my studies. I wanted to do well in my studies so that one day I would be a doctor and help the people in my village.”

Things were going great but suddenly every changed. Rumi Akhter’s life also took an unexpected turn. Sariakandi, prone to frequent floods, faced one such calamity that swept through Rumi’s world like a tempest. Such flood hit in Rumi’s area and everything was lost in the blink of an eye. Thousands of people lost their home and hundreds of people lost their livelihood including Rumi’s father.

“My father owned a pharmacy, and it served as the primary source of income for our family. People relied on us for their shop, and everything was going well. However, when the flood struck our area, we lost the shop, and our situation took a drastic turn. In just a few hours, my father went from being employed and managing the shop to facing unemployment, leaving us in a state of destitution”.

In rural Bangladesh, starting a business requires one to invest all their savings. When a business is swept away by floods or carried away by cyclones, recovery seems impossible. The harsh reality is that dreams, like fragile structures, can be shattered by the unpredictable forces of nature, leaving little room for rebuilding.

“My father was struggling to rebuild the shop after the disaster. It was getting hard for my father to bear the cost of a family of six members. Just at that time, my aunt brought a marriage proposal for me. The man with whom my marriage was fixed was twice my age and my aunt tried to convince my father that this marriage would be beneficial as the man will provide work to my father and brother in exchange of our marriage”.

In rural Bangladesh, it’s a widespread phenomenon where girl children are often perceived as a financial burden. Parents are eager to marry them off at the earliest opportunity, fearing that investing in their education would be a waste. There’s a prevailing belief that if the girls age more, it would incur higher dowry expenses.

“I used to pray to the almighty everyday so that he could show us a path where I don’t have to marry early and also my family could have a stable income. Just then an initiative took place in my village which didn’t just gave me hope but also bringing a ray of optimism to my family”

In order to reduce this problem, Amal Foundation and IPDC Finance have decided to provide an interest free loan called “Child Marriage Prevention Loan” that would ensure education and prevention of early marriage of girl child in our village and will also provide a stable income generation opportunity for their parents.  Through this loan, parents would be able to invest in business or other income-generating activities such as shop set up, agriculture or other business.

To be eligible for this loan the parents have to maintain three rules. Firstly, the parents have to have a girl child between 12 and 18 years of age; Secondly, girls cannot be married off before legal age; Finally, the girl child should be educated till the end of higher-secondary school.

“When my parents leaned about this initiative, they couldn’t believe. To make this project clearer to the community, IPDC Finance and Amal Foundation hosted community consultation where the project was explained in details including loan amount, grace period and payment process. After the consultation, my father was very interested and enthusiast to be a part of this project. He immediately contacted the host organizations and applied for the loan”.

The initiative will be implemented from 2022 to 2027 at Sariakandi and Gabtali in Bogra district. This project will prevent child marriage of girls to a large extent and will also give girls an opportunity to become self-reliant and educated. Instead of being a burden to their families, girls will become their important asset.

“I will be forever in the debt to IPDC Finance and AMAL Foundation for helping me. Because of their financial loan, my father has rebuilt his pharmacy and is now earning decent money through and I didn’t have to marry at an early age. One day I hope that I would be able to continue my study and will fulfill my dream.”