Abeda Begum is a hard-working student in Grade 7 in Satkhira District, Bangladesh. Her father is the breadwinner of the family and lives at his workplace outside their district. Abeda’s mother is a housewife and she sometimes grows vegetables in their yard. Other than their homestead, they have no land to produce crops for subsistence of the family. In such a situation, they depended on the father's income and cannot afford a healthy life.
In February 2020, Liakot Ali, a boy in the village, started to stalk Abeda frequently. He started following her for several days and requested Abeda’s friends to provide her contact number; thankfully, none of them complied. Frightened, Abeda told her mother after returning home.
Few days later on her way to school, Liakot suddenly holds her hand and Abeda immediately flees. Her mother visited Liakot’s home along with Abeda, and narrated everything that happened to her daughter. In contrast, Liakot’s mother quarreled with them, instead of taking punitive measures to her son.
In Bangladesh, depraved adolescent boys and young men from influential families feel that they are privileged. Powerful families in such situations often abuse unfortunate families. As a family with connections abroad, Liakot’s family had become rich. Such families often have contacts with local administration which give them some kind of impunity to crime.
On the following day, Abeda and her mother went to a grocery shop near their house. Suddenly, Liakot with a gang of five people groped Abeda. Her mother tried to rescue her daughter but was successful. One of Liakot’s accomplices photographed Abeda. Later on, her photographs were distorted through an editing software and then shared on Facebook.
As a result, Abeda stopped going to school and did not go out. Feeling strongly embarrassed, Abeda stopped communicating with her friends. As Abeda’s father stays out of their district, both Abeda and her mother feel distressed. Fearing that they might experience repercussions, neighbours also did not offer their support.
Abeda’s mother told her husband about the incidents which led to her father coming back home to seek justice from local leaders. However, they did not take it seriously and rather, tried to bypass it.
One girl informed her father about the Child Rights Defenders’ Forum (CRDF) supported by Agrogoti Sangstha, Terre des Hommes partner organization. Her father met the members and told them about the incidents. They motivated him to complain to the local police station against the perpetrators.
On 24 June 2020, Abeda’s father went to the local police station and complained against Liakot and his accomplices. He also arranged a press meeting at the Upazila Press Club. As a result, this incident is now under investigation by the police.
The traumatized Abeda is receiving psychosocial counseling once a week from Agrogoti Sangstha and has recovered from her trauma to a large extent. CRDF members are also visiting Abeda's home to check on her well-being.
With the involvement of civil society and the police, Liakot’s gangs are now silent on the issue. Concerned project staff are regularly communicating with the family, civil society organizations, and local leaders.
Despite not going outdoors as often as before, Abeda is continuing her studies at home. Since the incidents, community members are supporting her and her family.
Abeda said, “If the CRDF members did not help me and my family, I would not have been able to save myself from such danger. I am grateful to TdH-NL, Agrogoti Sangstha, and CRDF members. They should continue their endeavor to protect vulnerable and victims like me from abuse and exploitation”.
TdH-NL is frequently communicating with its partners. In this particular case, TdH phoned Agrogoti Sangtha and offered support if needed. Agrogoti Sangstha is a reputed legal aid agency in Bangladesh and they will be able to provide legal support through their panel lawyers if needed.
Through the Girls Advocacy Alliance Project, Terre des Hommes Netherlands are helping many girls and young women to be given a voice and be able to live a happy life. Abeda is one of many who need support in counselling, legal aid, and protection from child exploitation.