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"The Marriage Breakers of Bangladesh"

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 27 Apr 2012 11:42 GMT
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Though he is just 12, Oli, from slums in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, has decided to lead a campaign against child marriage – in a country where two thirds of girls are married by the age of 18.

He is one of three children whose stories emerge in "The Marriage Breakers of Bangladesh", a BBC TV documentary due to air on Friday, and which features children’s charity  Plan International's work against child marriage in Bangladesh.

Worldwide, one girl is married off every three-and-a-half seconds, according to Plan UK’s 2011 “Breaking Vows” report into early and forced marriage.  In the world’s poorest countries, one in seven girls is married by the age of 15. 

Oli speaks to community elders, going from home to home with his friends, and talks to parents and tells them the importance of not marrying their daughters before they are ready.

“Behind our parents’ decisions to marry girls young is poverty. Extreme poverty. If our parents get a good offer, sometimes it is very difficult to change their minds,” he says.

“Now if we hear about a child marriage taking place, we go to see the parents and try to get them to stop the marriage. We have tried this on many occasions – sometimes with success and sometimes we are not able to stop the marriage,” he adds.

“We also wrote a script for a street drama, to show the negative effects of child marriage and we performed several shows of this around the community. That made a big difference.”

Poppy is a 12 year-old girl suffering from fistula PHOTO: BBCThe BBC documentary also tells the stories of Poppy – a 12 year-old girl abandoned by her husband after suffering from fistula caused by early childbirth, and Jemi – a 13 year-old girl on the brink of being married off to her cousin.

“When a girl hears she is to be married she can feel incredibly isolated, with the adults in her family against her,” says Mary Staunton, chief executive of Plan UK.

“The first people she turns to are often her friends at school.  Children have a powerful role to play in breaking this practice and they need to be properly informed of how they can help.”

“The Marriage Breakers of Bangladesh” is on BBC World News and the BBC News Channel at these times:

BBC World News (GMT)

April 27: 13:30

April 28: 11:30, 23:30


BBC News Channel (BST)

April 28: 05:30, 14:30, 21:30

April 29: 03:30, 10:30, 22:30


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