For young girls hailing from disadvantaged communities, activities such as competitive sports not only encourage them to discuss sensitive health issues but also empower them to take up leadership roles in their societies. For women, participating in team sports also enables a sense of unity that helps them be seen as champions within their communities.
Every year millions of adolescent girls marry young in South Asia. They are burdened with responsibilities as young wives and teenage mothers. In most cases, girls are coerced into marriage in varying circumstances. Research indicates that child brides face greater physical violence and a number of health risks. However, evidence is also building up on another more serious consequence of early marriage.
Polli shomaj, or community-based organisations, are designed to empower poor, rural women, by enabling them to raise their voice, and claim their rights and entitlements. These groups are powerful and successful mediums of sustainable development. They actively engage more than one million rural women in 55 districts of Bangladesh.
Maria Ndagire is 17 years old. Her parents died when she was only four years old. “My uncle had to take care of us after our parents died, but it was not easy. He already had his own children to care for and did not earn that much money.” Ndagire almost gave up on life when the only brother she had, left home one day never to return again. She was able to go to school, only because the head teacher there was her aunt. But her losses did not make her lose focus.
Around 20 girls sit in a small room, decorated with messages about leadership, reproductive health and family planning along with pictures they have drawn themselves. This is a BRAC Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) club. This particular club called Bwebajja is located in a semi-urban area, under BRAC’s Kajjansi branch in Uganda. Huddled together, the girls look up at us, muzungus (foreigners) with awe and anticipation. They know who we are. They know BRAC. They call it “Blaca.”
Over the past one month, Bangladesh has been eagerly following their favourite football teams during the FIFA World Cup. BRAC decided to harness this nationwide enthusiasm by organising a match between Brazil and Argentina – two of the country’s most beloved teams. However, the players themselves were made up of girls from BRAC’s adolescent development programme’s (ADP) adolescent clubs. The best players were selected from across Bangladesh to ensemble the two teams who played a friendly game against each other on 27 June at the T&T field in Motijheel, Dhaka.