When her mother became ill, Khadija’s father forced her to get married. She was only 15 years old.
She had just taken the Secondary School Certificate exam so, his father, a labour worker in a fertilizer company and father of four, thought it was the right time to marry his eldest, Khadija.
Immediate after the marriage, her husband and in-laws stopped Khadija’s education and forced her to get a job in the Export Processing Zone, an Industrial Area close to her village.
Khadija had to do all the household chores before going to work and hand-over full monthly salary to her mother-in-law.
Still, her husband's family was not satisfied, so they torture her until Khadija couldn't take anymore. Physically ill and depressed, Khadija decided to quit her job and went back to her parents.
Khadija’s husband's family tried to stop her, but with a strong stand she didn’t move from her parent’s house.
For almost 2 years they had no communication, but in fear of filing a case against her, Khadija was convinced from the village leaders to come back with her husband and in-laws. Due to the family pressure, Khadija delivered a baby boy. She was 17 years old.
Fighting child marriage through knowledge
Terre des Hommes targets married girls with leadership skills and access to sexual and reproductive health services. Terre des Hommes’ programme works on changing social norms about early marriage and sexual and reproductive health and married girls act as agents for change and advocate for their rights.
Khadija joined Terre des Hommes Early Married Girl programme in Bangladesh, and she started attending regularly the Early Married Girls sessions.
She participated in group session on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, nutrition, menstrual health management, Mother and Child Health, family planning, education, and Gender based Violence.
Khadija also took part in discussion sessions with different service providers to get access to services for early married girls.
As Khadija was very active in the sessions, and expressed her interest to work for the community, she became a change-maker for the project.
Khadija started helping early married girls and women in her locality in check-ups of pregnant mothers, institutional delivery, child immunization and in prevention of child marriage. She joined the awareness raising theater group and convinced her husband to attend the Spouse Forum Sessions and her mother-in-law to take part in the Family Club Meetings.
They took part in sessions on the issues of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, nutrition, menstrual health management, Mother & Child Health, family planning, education and gender based violence.
“I thought that my wife was my property and bound to do whatever I say to do”
These sessions motivated her husband and family members to get information on these issues, realize the importance to support Khadija and create a supportive environment.
Khadija’s family, including in-laws were also reached through household visits to convince them to let Khadija continue her education as well.
These awareness sessions brought a noticeable change in the family towards Khadija. Her husband admitted that he was unnecessarily rude to his wife: “I thought that my wife was my property and bound to do whatever I say to do. But now I know that every relationship needs to be nurtured. Respect, love and care are the most important elements for a happy conjugal life.”
A new life for Khadija
Currently, Khadija is a well known change maker in her village. At present, she is on her higher studies as enrolled into a college for Higher Secondary School Certificate.
She got the opportunity to join as a health worker in a health focused local NGO. “I believe my NGO selected me because of my knowledge on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights received through Terre des Hommes’ project sessions and experience to work as change maker.”
In February 2019, Khadija joined another NGO as field facilitator working for women and girls’ rights. Khadija’s life has totally changed.
Khadija is now deciding by herself.
You can help thousands of girls like Khadija having a new life. Donate now to stop child Exploitation in Bangladesh!