18-year-old Monika is fighting child marriage
Every girl deserves to live free from rape, abuse and violence – it’s her right.
Did you know?
That every minute, 23 girls enter child marriage – that’s one girl every three seconds.
Child brides are at increased risk of physical and mental harm. They experience rape, abuse, violence, and stigmatisation. They are more likely to be undernourished, and often drop out of school. When pregnant, they can experience life threatening birth complications which can lead to death.
And child marriage increases the risk of mental illness by 41%.
Through Child Sponsorship World Vision works with communities to break down the systems and beliefs that force girls into marriage. We are empowering women and girls as decision makers and agents of change; involving local community leaders to transform harmful attitudes and practices, and engaging men/boys – who hold significant social power – to say no to child marriage. We are also strengthening health, education, social and child protection sectors to prevent/respond to the risk of child marriage.
Having a sponsor meant Monika, an 18-year-old from a rural community in Bangladesh, had the knowledge, tools and social support resources to stand up to child marriage. Not only has she avoided becoming a bride herself, but she is helping countless other girls facing a similar nightmare. She and her team have successfully stopped ten child marriages in their community.
Rahima* was just 14 years old when she came home from school and found out she was to be married to someone she’d never met.
Growing up in rural Bangladesh, she knew lots of girls who were expected to go through an early arranged marriage but was shocked it was happening to her.
“I did not know what to do,” she said. “When I found out, I cried a lot. I did not know whether I should speak out or not.”
Child marriage is an abusive practice that traps children in dangerous situations and limits their ability to develop and make their own choices. Our research shows that girls who marry early face higher risk of psychiatric disorders in adulthood, are more like to be pregnant as adolescents, face higher risk of dying from childbirth and are more likely to experience intimate partner violence. But, despite being a violation of human rights, the practice is still common today.
More than half of girls in Bangladesh are married before their 18th birthday, a rate that’s higher in poor and rural communities. The decision to arrange their daughter’s marriage can be financially motivated: when parents struggle to provide for their children, it means one less child to feed. In places where a dowry, or financial payment for the bride, is customary, child marriage can be a way for families to acquire much-needed money or livestock. It can seem like a win-win for families who believe they are securing their daughters’ future while also building their own financial security.
With all this stacked against her, it felt like Rahima had no other option than to accept her fate.
That was, until she heard about Monika.
Monika is just a few years older than Rahima, but also comes from a family where child marriage was seen as the norm. However, Monika avoided being married off because she was sponsored.
Frontline of the child marriage battle
“In various sessions at World Vision, I came to know about the physical and psychological damage child marriage has on a child,” she explains. Even though both her mother and her sister were married as children, she was able to choose a different path after she shared what she had learned with her family.
But Monika didn’t stop there. Knowing the effects child marriage was having in her community, Monika decided to take a stand with a group of friends. Now, at just 18, she and her team are on the frontline of the battle against child marriage by exposing its harms to local families and the authorities.
“So far I have stopped 10 marriages,” she says. “My team and I believe that child marriage can be prevented if we all work together.”
The news of what Monika was doing reached Rahima, who contacted her. Rahima says, “I told Monika's team about this, who came to my house and told my mother that it is not right to get married at this age. My mother said, ‘What should I do? We are poor people, we do not have money for her education, so we are getting her married off at a young age’.”
Monika’s team acted quickly.
“When we get information about any child marriage, we immediately inform the local administration,” explains Monika. “With their help, we stop child marriage through the mobile court as well.”
Thanks to Monika and her team, who convinced Rahima’s parents that child marriage is harmful, Rahima’s marriage was stopped. She is now back in school, dreaming of becoming a lawyer – and sharing with other girls what she learned through her experience about the power of speaking up.
And so, the ripple effect of Monika’s sponsorship continues, transforming the world that girls in her community live in, for good.
Child marriage is a form of violence that violates children's rights. It must be stopped. Every girl has the right to live free from rape, abuse and violence.
Right now, girls all over the world are being forced into violent realities like child marriage, child labour and abuse. But sponsorship is helping to change that, because for every child who is sponsored, four more children in their community benefit.
You can fight for the rights of a girl like Rahima.
*Name changed to protect identity