20-year-old Asha is from a community in Bangladesh where most people are farmers and the houses are made of straw and mud. Her father is a day labourer and her mother is a housewife.
At 16, Asha completed her secondary school certificate with a distinction in science and mathematics, but unfortunately, that same year she was illegally married off to a 24 year old man, Raju. He was a mechanic working for the engineering department at the local government, and he turned out to be an alcoholic.
Raju would drink and then abuse Asha physically and sexually, ignoring her sexual and reproductive health and rights. In addition, Asha was doing all the chores and cooking.
Time passed, and a year later, with a one-year-old in her arms, Asha went to seek help from her parents, explaining the abuse she was enduring. Although they let her move back in with them, they did not do much to help, and she was still doing all the household chores.
Luckily, Asha was identified by the Nuffic team of Pollisree, a local NGO in Dinajpur that was advocating for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and raising awareness for Gender-Based Violence. They assessed Asha’s needs and provided support and counselling. In this way, Asha was able to learn more about Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, SRHR, informed consent, advocacy and negotiation skills. Her family and husband were also made aware of these issues.
After taking part in the programme, Asha showed great motivation and she was selected by the staff as one of the “Changemakers of Early Married Girls.” Because of this, Asha acquired a new dream: contributing to the goal of having no other girls be married without informed consent; fighting for SRHR and against Gender-Based Violence.
Staff from the project still follows up with Asha. After her parents were made aware of her rights, they supported Asha in seeking a marriage annulment and helped her continue her education. She is now studying BA (Hons.) at Dinajpur Government College. She also attended a dressmaking and tailoring training, and her maternal uncle helped her buy two sewing machines. This has allowed her to start making a living as a freelance dressmaker, becoming a breadwinner herself.
“One day I was married off without informed consent in an uncertain way. My husband tortured me physically and mentally. [But] the Nuffic project made me a success with early married girls. I recovered physiologically and gained strength enormously because I am studying at BA (Hons.) at Dinajpur Government College and earning by doing freelance dressmaking and tailoring,” said Asha. “My learning with the Nuffic Project inspires me to contribute to developing my society and country [regarding] informed consent before marriage, [awareness around] Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights,” she continued.