More than 40% of girls in Bangladesh drop out from secondary school, and almost 60% are married by the time they turn 18.
Mitu is one of 100,000 young women in nearly 5,000 adolescent clubs across Bangladesh. These clubs provide safe spaces where young women can learn sports, life skills, social confidence and entrepreneurship. They share experiences, receive training and build networks.
Research has shown that adolescent clubs help girls to stay in school, become more financially literate and communicate more confidently. BRAC has set up nearly 18,000 adolescent clubs in six other countries; Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nepal.
Kaniz Khondokar Mitu, 22 years Mymensingh, Bangladesh
“The magic of folk music had me spellbound from when I was a child. Music has always been in my veins. When you grow up in poverty you usually dream of a well-to-do job – one that pays your rent, bills and groceries. It is not usual to dream of becoming a singer. My family, like most, expected girls to only do chores and raise children. They threatened to ostracise me if I kept singing.
During a performance in a Boishakhi fair, a man from the crowd walked up to me and said he had never seen such talent. His name was Golam Rabbani Ratan. He offered to pay for my entire musical education. Each day my father would give me BDT 5 for school, and I would take a rickshaw to Rabbani’s house to learn folk literature. I performed in many cultural programmes as a member of a BRAC kishori (adolescent girls) club. In 2011, I participated in BRAC’s musical reality show named ‘Meghe Dhaka Tara.’ It was a national-level competition and I won first prize. This inspired me to pursue music as a career, and I got admitted in the music department of Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University.
This year, I participated in SAUFEST, a South Asian cultural festival held in Gujrat. It is one thing to sing the national anthem in a school assembly, but completely different when you do it in a foreign land in front of thousands of people. One of the judges said that I was the Bangladeshi bomb that blew their minds. I still remember the booming of the microphone when the host shouted “BANGLADESH!” and how I was crying as I got up on the stage.”