BRAC is empowering girls against child forced marriage through sport

August 6, 2014

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Mitu and Tania are club leaders and cricket coaches from BRAC’s adolescent development programme (ADP) in Bangladesh. The programme creates safe places where adolescent girls can read, socialise, play sport together, take part in cultural activities and have open discussions on personal and social issues with their peers. Each club has 25-35 adolescent members aged 10 to 19 years old. A range of livelihood training courses are offered to the older girls to help them learn new skills for employment.

Tammy, Mitu and Tania

England women’s cricketer Tammy Beaumont shows her support for the UK Girl’s Summit meeting with representatives of BRAC Mitu Roy and Tania Akter.

Mitu and Tania are club leaders and cricket coaches from BRAC’s adolescent development programme (ADP) in Bangladesh. The programme creates safe places where adolescent girls can read, socialise, play sport together, take part in cultural activities and have open discussions on personal and social issues with their peers. Each club has 25-35 adolescent members aged 10 to 19 years old. A range of livelihood training courses are offered to the older girls to help them learn new skills for employment.

In Bangladesh 32% of girls are married before their 15th birthday*. Child Forced Marriage results in girls being much more likely to experience complications in pregnancy, become infected with HIV and suffer domestic violence at the hands of older husbands. Girls that are married early typically have little access to education and economic opportunities and therefore are more likely to perpetuate a continued cycle of poverty.

Mitu and Tania were both at risk of being forced into marriage at a young age but over time through the ADP programme and with support from BRAC staff, they were able to influence their parents to stop the process.

This month Mitu and Tania embarked on a new adventure and travelled to London to meet English cricketers at Lords cricket ground to highlight the issues of child forced marriage. They both attended and spoke at the DFID Youth For Change event which preceded the first ever global Girl Summit. Youth For Change was developed by young people for young people to ignite action on girls’ rights and strengthen young people as the leaders of the future.

The energy from Youth For Change was taken into the Girl Summit where millions of dollars was pledged in international aid to combat female genital mutilation and child forced marriage across Africa and Asia and protect girls’ human rights. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina spoke at length about the difficulties early forced marriage presents for girls and women in Bangladesh. She stated that her government is committed to eradicating it by 2021 despite the massive cultural obstacles to overcome.

BRAC chairperson, Sir Fazle Abed, said: “BRAC ensures that Bangladeshi adolescents are fully equipped to face life and its challenges through its multiple and comprehensive interventions, including sport. Participating in sport empowers adolescents, especially girls. It builds their self-confidence, independence and the ability to take decisions that affect their lives.”

Mitu, 20, said: “Through playing cricket in BRAC clubs I have gained the trust of my family as well as the community.  Now they know that I can lead my team and solve my problems for myself.”

Tania, 21, added: “Playing sport has made me so confident that now I can talk freely about many other issues with many people and can encourage other girls to do the same.”

One of the first barriers to combating issues of child forced marriage is being able to talk about the issues in a safe and open environment where every voice is counted. BRAC as a Southern-led international development organisation dedicated to alleviating poverty by empowering women, to realise their potential and bring about lasting change in their own lives, has created this space for girls in Bangladesh and across our international programmes in Africa and Asia.

To continue the work that BRAC and other organisations have already started and to impact more girls globally the elimination of child forced marriage should be reflected in the post 2015 development framework and programmes that support girls should be expanded.

UK International Development Minister, Desmond Swayne said: “Sport can make a real difference to the lives of girls in developing countries.  It gives them a healthy, enjoyable past time, of course even more importantly it helps them to establish themselves in their community, raises their status and gives them control over their future.Too often girls around the world are robbed of a choice in life by being forced to marry early.”

 

*Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2013)

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