I have been in Bangladesh for 10 days now and successfully conducted my awareness workshops in my first school in Raipura. This is a little village 3 hours drive from Dhaka. It is a very rural area and the high school I went to has been built very recently, but has been a great improvement to the community.
Before I went to the school I spoke to the head teacher to find out a bit more about the school and community. I was told that just this year at least 4 girls from years 6 and 7 had dropped out of school due to them getting married. She said every year they notice a significant dropout rate due to these child marriages and so was very happy that this project was taking place.
Getting to the school was a not an easy task. As it was in a very rural part of the village the car could not go there. We had to walk through a crop field, but due to it being monsoon season the small path was very muddy and on either side the water was nearly knee high. However I got a very warm welcome one I got there!
The first session there were about 95 girls in years 8 to 10 and then on the next day I did the workshops with years 6 and 7 with around 130 girls. They were all very responsive to the group activities and when I interacted with them which was nice to see. The first group activity I wanted to know what they knew about child marriages and how it can impact a young girl. To my surprise they did have a fair bit of knowledge but I elaborated on the parts about the health issues that can occur.
The most important part of this project is trying to make a positive impact for these girls and the community. And I got to see just this in the first week of being here. There was a girl called Purna, who is in year 10 but attended the session with the girls in years 6 and 7. It turns out that her parents had stopped her from coming to school due to guys verbally harassing her on the streets and they thought it be best to get her married. However since they heard about this awareness program and everyone was talking about the impacts since I got there, her parents called the school to let her back in. She then attended my session and will now continue her high school education. It was amazing to see that in such a short time it had already made an impact on at least one girl’s future!
Also on the first day a few girls actually put as one of their future girls that they too wanted to work on preventing child marriages which was really promising to hear. The school was also really pleased to have this project took place and have invited me back to come visit the school and see the progress.
I have 2 more schools that I would like to go to and I am hoping they are just as successful as my first school! Below are some pictures from the school and the stationary each girl received from these sessions.