Shapla Banu was almost married by her parents at just 13 years old. With her courage and the support of The Hunger Project’s Youth Ending Hunger program, she avoided that fate. Her story, below, was recently selected out of 300 cases by the National Committee of Bangladesh Girl Summit 2014 as part of their “Life Story Telling” segment. Shapla attended the summit to share her story.
‘I am Shapla and I study in class 6. I like to go to school and I have friends there. I like my teachers, they teach me about so many things. I like to study.
One day I went to the study group of Youth Ending Hunger Project, Bangladesh. That day the group’s topic was child marriage. Our ward member, Ms Rajia Sultana, was the guest lecturer. She explained the adverse effects and risks of child marriage. After the session, I promised myself that I would never get married before 18. Besides that, I want to go to University. I want to be a teacher.
One afternoon, when I came back from school, I was surprised to see so many people gathering at our house. I asked mother, what is going on? Why there are so many people in the house? She did not answer my question, but asked me to follow whatever instructions were given. My sister-in-law (neighbor) made me understand my roles to follow. Then I came to realize that all of this was for the preparation of my wedding. I was bewildered. I am only 13 years old. How could my parents think of my marriage! My father seemed taken by the proposal, considering the wealth of groom’s family. My mother looked sad, but she had no intention to stop it. I had to stop this happening to me. I remembered our ward member, Ms. Rajia, and her lecture. I decided to call her for help. I borrowed my sister-in-law’s mobile phone and secretly called her.
Within one hour, Ms. Rajia arrived at our house like an angel. She came directly to me without looking at anyone else. All I could say to her was that I am only 13, what would you do if I were your own child? Ms. Rajia needed to hear no more than that and understood the situation. She immediately spoke with my parents and asked my father if he asked my consent for this marriage. After a while, my father admitted that, marrying a girl child is not right, but the proposal was too good to refuse. All of a sudden, my mother said that she has seen so many sad cases of child marriage victims, and that she will not do this to me. My father was shocked after hearing her reaction. My mother was never so vocal, but this time she stood up for me. Ms. Rajia also explained the laws and strict penalties for child marriage. My father promised that he will not marry me off before 18.
I thank the study group I went to that day. It freed me off from the curse of child marriage. I thank the Youth Ending Hunger project, Bangladesh. I am grateful to Ms. Rajia Sultana. If they were not there, I might have become another case of child marriage. I might have become one of those girls, who I have seen as sufferers of child marriage.
My friends and school teachers admire me for my courage. But I am just glad to be an inspiration for others.
Shapla Banu lives in Durgapur Village of Ghosh Nagor Union, Patnitola Upazila of Nagaon District. Her father is Md. Harunoor Rashid and mother’s name is Manjuara Begum. She is 13 years old and studying in class 6.