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Girls & Women

How Teen Girls in Bangladesh Are Improving Women's Health

Turning 18 is an exciting day for many.

In the US, 18-year-olds gain the privilege of voting, joining the military, and calling themselves adults. In many European countries, you can obtain a driver’s license. In Bangladesh, more than 50 percent of girls are married. Some of them are even mothers.

Though there are laws that prohibit marriage before the age of 18, it is poorly enforced, resulting in a high percentage of child marriage. Additionally, one-third of those girls aged 15 to 19 become pregnant.

Luckily, a national network of teen girls called Shornokishoree is acting as a support network for girls being forced into child marriage. It also educates girls on their reproductive health so they’re informed on what’s happening to their bodies.

Shornokishoree, which means Golden Girls, operates health clubs for girls aged 10 to 19 in schools in every district of Bangladesh. The girls meet biweekly to learn about reproductive health and develop the skills to share this information with the women throughout their communities. So far, they have produced a video series that airs on one of Bangladesh’s largest TV networks, released an Android app, and they operate a 24-hour hotline service to answer health-related questions.

“We are the future mothers of Bangladesh,” 15-year-old Anika, a leader in Gazipur district, told News Deeply. “If we girls don’t know information about our own health, we will not be able to take care of ourselves – and we will not be able to give birth to a healthy child.”

The girls are taught about health-related issues from their mothers and family members, and they share this knowledge within the organization with other young girls. Reproductive health is sensitive issue in Bangladesh, and Shornokishoree teaches girls that is their right to know about sexual and reproductive health.

Members inspired by the passionate mission of Shornokishoree utilize this network to share this information about adolescent health around the country.

This organization also aims to end child marriage by doing whatever they can to help the girls being forced into marriage. In some cases this means going to speak with the girl’s parents, reminding them of the law and informing them of the serious consequences of child marriage. Other times, the district commissioner is called to break up the marriage because it is illegal.

“There are many kinds of girls in Bangladesh, but without sufficient knowledge about adolescence, they become shy,” Noshin, 15, leader in the Bagerhat district said. “Once they get that knowledge, they become so outspoken. They have knowledge to share, they have knowledge to enlighten others. I think all the girls of Bangladesh are so courageous.”

In addition to Shornokishoree, Bangladesh has been working to improve maternal health for all women. Nearly half of women gave birth with a medically trained attendant in 2014, up from just one-fifth in 2007. Recently, the World Bank announced it will lend $150 million to help Bangladesh improve its health systems, including care for pregnant women in state hospitals.

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