Sunday, July 20, 2008

Food Prices to Child Marriage

The pressure of rising world food prices has finally burst within the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. The families of The Dhaka Project have been witness to the devastation of these price increases and many have reached desperation point.

The only possible solution that some families have found to overcome this pressure is to marry their daughter to a man who can then take the responsibility of providing for her. Unfortunately, within the Bangladeshi culture, a daughter is still seen as a burden – another mouth to feed. She is not seen as the amazing and successful Pilot/Teacher/Businesswoman that The Dhaka Project schools encourage her to grow and mature to be.

Over the last few months The Dhaka Project staff have been trying to ease the financial pressure on families by providing discounted rice and staples. This however has not released all families from the ongoing pressures. Parents of six of the thirty female students aged 12-14 have attempted to marry off their daughters in the last six months. Four of these children have had their marriages aborted by The Dhaka Project staff, whom, upon hearing of the potential arrangement, have rushed to educate the parents about the negative consequences of illegal underage marriage. However, sadly, two of these children have actually been married off as per their parents' wishes.

That doesn't mean that The Dhaka Project team gives up once these girls are married. One case is Bilkis, 13, (photo left) the smartest student in The Dhaka Project Standard 5 class, who in May was married off to her cousin from her home village. The Dhaka Project team were able to locate her and convince her new husband to allow them both to return to Dhaka to ensure the bright and talented Bilkis could return to school.

With world food prices forecasted to increase, The Dhaka Project, with the support of the Emirates Airline Foundation, has planned for the future and has opened a girls hostel to protect vulnerable girls like Bilkis from early marriage. The initial hostel will house 28 girls who will be cared for by a number of their grandmothers (who are also deemed as a burden on the family). The Dhaka Project girls hostel will ensure that these children will be able to grow and develop within a safe and secure environment and assist them to reach their full potential.

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