Bangladesh has the fourth highest rate of child marriage in the world. According to a UNICEF study, 65 % of girls in Bangladesh are married before they turn eighteen and 29% before they turn fifteen. Lack of education is a big part of this problem, with child marriage occurring most frequently among girls with the least formal education. In this scenario, access to education can change a girl’s life by improving her employment opportunities, health and social life.
Beginning with 15 schools in 2013, Women and Girls Lead Global (WGLG) has now expanded their Best School for Girls (BS4G) campaign in Bangladesh to 300 schools, encouraging them to create a more welcoming environment for girls. This includes providing separate toilets for girls, waiving tuition for impoverished girls, establishing complaint boxes where girls can report sexual harassment in or out of schools, and encouraging sports and recreation for girls. Each year since 2013, WGLG Bangladesh has awarded the best initiatives taken by participating schools, teachers, student councils, and parents to help girls continue and strengthen their education.
In 2015, WGLG awarded 30 schools, 18 student councils, 18 teachers and 18 parents for their outstanding roles in supporting girls’ education in six different regions. Student councils were recognized for their outstanding performance in monitoring girls’ attendance, preventing child marriage in communities and seeking support from school and local administrations. Teachers and parents were also recognized for their support. So far, student councils and teachers have prevented 993 child marriages, 2,128 school dropouts and brought 900 girls – married or divorced – back to school again in 2015.
Local government officials and representatives have demonstrated their commitment to the aim of the Best School for Girls campaign by attending awards ceremonies as special guests. Notably, at a ceremony in Rangpur, Mr. Asaduzzaman Bablu, an Upazilla Chairman promised an award of 500 thousand Taka ($6,000) to each of the winning schools.
The goal of ending child marriage in Bangladesh might seem a long way away, but the Best School for Girls awards recognize the small yet significant efforts that bring us one step closer.
Photos by: Mahmood Hussain Sarker/ Women and Girls Lead Global