Sharifa* is a 17-year-old girl from Mathpara, Bangladesh. With the permission from her parents, she was able to buy a new phone. In the beginning, she did not know how to use it and asked her friends for some help. Sharifa learned that many of her friends use different social media platforms with their phones such as Facebook, which influenced her growing interest in using them.
Her friend Russel* who worked at a mobile shop helped her set-up a Facebook account and taught her how to use other applications.
Sharifa’s parents were not aware that she spent a lot of time on social media. They assumed that she only used her new phone for watching videos and listening to music.
Russel tried to take advantage of her sexually, however, she refused. Knowing that she had been lying to her parents, Russel used this to blackmail her and threatened to inform Sharifa’s parents about her activities on social media.
In rural communities in Bangladesh, social norms regarding relationships between parents and their children are traditional where trusts and obedience are important. Sharifa was shocked and traumatized. She did not have any clue about what to do, and she did not tell anyone about her situation.
In Sharifa’s village, a child rights defenders’ forum was organized by Agragoti Sangstha, a local organisation that is partnered with Terre des Hommes Netherlands. Sharifa was able to attend this forum and was able to freely express her situation to a staff member.
With the knowledge and experience of working with children in need, Sharifa’s situation was handled with care by Agragoti Sangstha and TdH-NL social workers. She received help in restoring her privacy online, support through psychosocial counseling, and her parents were informed about her situation.
They also resolved the situation with Russel through potential legal punishment. Realizing the offence, Russel asked for apologies and also promised not to repeat such activities in the future. Russel’s father also regretted the incident.
With this incident, the relationship between Sharifa and her parents became stronger, where she can freely express her thoughts and feelings to them with their undivided attention.
Sharifa has a message to other youths as they start to go online. She said, “You should learn how to be safe online prior to being on it. Do not trust everyone and involve your parents in every step that you take”.
Sharifa dreams of holding a good job after completing her studies and to support her parents. She promised to herself that she will focus on her education rather than being online.
“When I was facing a critical time, Agrogoti Sangstha and the child rights defenders’ forum members advised us and supported us to come out from our previous situation into a better one. I would not have been saved from such danger without their spontaneous support. I am grateful for their support”, she ended.
*To protect their identity, names have been changed