Suraia couldn’t decide. In fact, no girl can decide when parents arrange their marriage.
No matter if she was still 16 years old and had dreams and hopes. No matter if she wanted a different life, like any other 16 year old girl in the world.
Suraia couldn’t choose her husband. Her first cousin, Morshed, who was 21 years old, was the chosen one. Not by Suraia, but from her grandparents.
Suraia was performing well at school and recently got admitted into college. Despite living a hard life, Suraia liked to hang around with other girls and boys, something that was not well seen by their grandparents.
Getting friends and hang out together was seen a non acceptable behaviour so they threatened her to get her out of school and, ultimately, Suraia’s grandparents decided to get her married.
That’s the way they stopped social pressure. That’s the way they applied the traditional rule in Bangladesh.
That’s the way the life of Suraia was broken.
Terre des Hommes is leading Image Plus project in Bangladesh. A project aimed to help girls like Suraia who are too young to be brides.
Suraia joined one of the Image Plus groups in her area and started participating in sessions oriented to teach early married girls about their Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, nutrition basics and menstrual health management.
Several topics are taught in these groups like mother and child health, family planning and gender violence issues.
Suraia’s husband, Morshed, enrolled in the Spouse Forum and received awareness sessions.
After these sessions, the young couple decided to use family planning methods and planned to delay her first pregnancy until Suraia will be 20 years old.
These awareness sessions have also changed the economic scenario of Suraia and her family. At present Suriya and Morshed have established a poultry farm with ducks and geese and started growing different seasonal vegetables using modern technologies.
Suraia is focused on her education. She is now admitted to the college again and became a girl bride activist among their friends, relatives and community. She has a clear objective now: “I am very happy that I have returned to my education. I want to become a teacher one day,” she says.
“I am very happy that I have returned to my education. I want to become a teacher one day.”
That’s how early married couples enrolled in Terre des Hommes’ Image Plus program learnt how to plan their present and their future: through support, help, education and understanding.
In the meantime, Terre des Hommes continues its fight against Child Marriage so no more children in Bangladesh have to confront a break in their lives like Suraia.