Saira*, 15, don’t have school or evening play time with friends to look forward to. What she has is her 10-month-old baby boy to look after.
“My father would weave bamboo baskets and it was my job to sell them at the market. Men from our community, including my father, don’t go to the market. There was fear that if they went, they would be forced by the military to do manual labour and if they didn't agree, they would be punished. That’s why the women are the ones going to the market. But I feared going alone. I was afraid that I will be beaten up or assaulted.”
Saira’s fear became a reality for one of her close friends as the latter was sexually assaulted. And so before Saira was ready, she was married at 13 years old because “I was told it is better to marry young than be a target of sexual assault.”
“In our culture, if a woman is assaulted, it gives her family a bad name. They will be stigmatised and ostracised. I was scared of getting married too, but I had to listen to my parents.”
Not long after and then again, before Saira was ready, she found out she was pregnant. But Saira’s story doesn’t end with her being a young mother. Due to the situation in Myanmar, the teenager and her family had to flee to Bangladesh and are now living as refugees in makeshift camps. There, they received food assistance from World Vision. “Right now we are focusing on surviving and I am grateful to have received the food aid which will help my family to survive.”
To help Saira and young refugee mothers like her in Bangladesh, World Vision has been distributing food packs and non-food items like tarpaulins, tents and hygiene kits. Children are also screened for malnutrition and to meet the needs of children under five, pregnant and lactating mothers, we have set up safe spaces called Women and Young Children Spaces.
No girl should have to live in fear or be married off at an early age like Saira did. But so many do. Join the movement to sponsor 1,000 girls by International Day of the Girl on 11 October and help build a fearless future for girls.
*Name changed to protect privacy
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