Bangladesh has the highest child marriage rate in Asia. ‘Girls not Brides’ says 51% of girls in Bangladesh are married before their 18th birthday and 22% are married before the age of 15.
Early marriage for girls has many negatives: curtailing their schooling, lack of resilience, early pregnancy with ensuing complications, domestic violence and suicide.
Adolescent Community Transformation (ACT) project
LAMB Health unexpectedly received an anonymous gift from a Stewardship supporter which enabled them to fund a three-year project that ran from 2020-2022. They decided on a project which aimed to decrease the rate of child marriage and increase the mental well-being of adolescents among a population of 200,000 in an area 20 miles from the hospital.
- 500 groups of about 20 adolescents met monthly for two years to discuss their challenges and to learn about sexual reproductive health and mental health.
- 400 village women were trained as volunteer listeners (‘Aunties on a Bench’), so that adolescents had someone with whom to share.
- Training was provided for government health officials towards increasing confidentiality and respect for teenagers, so they felt comfortable to access sexual health support from the clinics.
- Local government officials were encouraged to provide vocational training for girls who were at risk of dropping out of school, to enable them to continue their education and avoid early marriage.
Surveys of adolescents at the beginning and end of the project measured its effectiveness.
- At the end of the project, adolescents in the intervention area showed increased awareness of Eve Teasing (sexual harassment), had improved communication with parents and increased self-confidence. In villages 144 wedding buster groups made up of students and adults were formed. They contacted community leaders or visited families to dissuade them from marrying-off their young daughters. We know of 191 weddings with child brides that were stopped.
- In the third year, ‘Aunties on the Bench’ received a total of 31,000 visits. 99% of young people said that they would recommend it to a friend.
- Government health facilities recorded 17,000 visits. Previously very few teenagers used these facilities.
- 405 girls received educational support; 174 received a means of income generation.
Understanding the results
Good things: The team was amazed at what was achieved in three years towards changing attitudes. Many adult authority figures - parents, teachers, health officials, local government officials wanted to work with the project to reduce early marriage. Many young people were strengthened in mental resilience.
The Aunties Benches proved very successful, and they are trying to continue to keep these going. The ‘Aunties’ work voluntarily, but the training and support they receive needs funding.
Less good: Early marriages still happened. LAMB know of 836 marriages of under 16 year-olds in the three years that the project ran. There is a limit to what can be achieved to change a culture in three years, but they know this important work has begun! The LAMB team is so grateful to the generous giver who made this work possible.
Who is LAMB Health?
LAMB Health is a Christian charitable trust founded and registered as a UK charity in 2003. It takes its name from the LAMB Project in North-West Bangladesh and was set up by supporters in the UK who wish to see LAMB and its vision continue to develop. The charity's main objectives are the relief of poverty, sickness and disability in South Asia. Currently they are concentrating on providing financial support to LAMB, an integrated rural health and development project in north-west Bangladesh with an emphasis on the rights of women.
Every donation, whether one-off or regular, makes a big difference to the patients at LAMB. Current financial needs include:
- Extension to training centre and dormitories for nursing and midwifery students
- Protection from erosion for LAMB pond and adjacent path: some of LAMB facilities were built more than 40 years ago, and require replacement and maintenance.
- Equipment needs: there is an ongoing list of equipment needs at LAMB for their hospital and training centre (Nursing & Midwifery Institute).
Find out more about LAMB and what they do on their website.
Please pray for all those working in Bangladesh to promote the health and wellbeing of young people, particularly girls in poor communities at risk of childhood marriage.
Photo by Adam Dickens for LAMB Health
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